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Article 88 Contempt toward Officials

This article covers the use of derogatory words against important officials by an officer of the armed forces. The accused may receive punishment that is decided through a court martial. The elements of the alleged violation of Article 88 that a military prosecutor must prove in trials are:

  • That the accused was an enlisted member of the armed forces.
  • That the accused used contemptuous words either in writing or verbally against the officials and/ or legislature outlined in the article. Contemptuous means insulting, rude, and disdainful conduct, or otherwise disrespectfully attributing to another a quality of meanness, disreputableness, or worthlessness.
  • That the accused used words that are deemed derogatory as per this article or similar words that indicate contempt.
  • That the accused caused these words to come to the knowledge of another person. That the words were contemptuous and/ or the circumstances under which they were employed made them contemptuous.

What is the Maximum Punishment Granted under Article 88?

The person charged under Article 88 shall be dismissed from the armed forces, asked to forfeit all allowances and pay, be confined for one year as maximum punishment.

Explanation of Article 88

Under article 88, commissioned officers are punished if they fail to show proper respect to highly placed officials of the country and the region in which he is stationed. Under this article, the use of contemptuous words with respect to the President, the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Congress and/ or the Secretary of Transportation is deemed an offense. In addition, a commissioned officer may also be charged under article 88 if he uses derogatory words for the Secretary of a military department, the legislature or Governor of any territory, state, possession or commonwealth where he is on duty or where he is present. Any such offense is punished as deemed right through a court martial process.

Points to Note about Article 88

  • The official or legislature against whom the accused has used contemptuous words should be in office or hold that position at the time when the words were used.
  • The contemptuous words may have been used against the official/ legislature in private capacity or official capacity. The user is charged with violation in either case.
  • An important aspect to note is that the accused can be charged with the offense only if the words are personally contemptuous to the official or legislature. If he has only criticized the official or legislature, it may not be deemed a violation of article 88.
  • Adverse criticism of an official/ legislature listed under this article during a political discussion may also not constitute violation of this article provided the accused has not used personally offensive words.
  • Generally, if the person has expressed adverse views about the official or legislature in a private conversation he may not be charged.
  • It is also important to note that if the person facilitates circulation of written material containing contemptuous words outlined under this article, this act aggravates the offense.
  • The offense is also aggravated by the use of the contemptuous words against officials/ legislature in presence of military subordinates.
  • The accused may be charged irrespective of whether or not his statements are correct.

Article 88 Violations with Internet Content

Commissioned officers may also be charged with Article 88 violation if they have used contemptuous words in content they have posted online. Servicemen who have made derogatory comments against officials/ legislatures listed in the article through their Facebook posts, Tweets, on MySpace or blogs or other social media channels may be charged with violating this punitive article. In effect, this article limits the ability of enlisted personnel to criticize certain officials verbally and in writing, both through hard copy and digitally.

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