- Armed Forces are regulated through specially enacted provisions. Like all other legal enactments, they follow a hierarchy in precedence. The principal legislations of the Armed Forces are adopted from the British legislations and have often been stated to be colonial and archaic in nature. During the British era, armed forces officers were mostly Britishers. The larger number of personnel below officer rank were Indians. Despite being a law bordering draconiasm, the Indian Army Act, 1911 was adopted substantially by The Army Act, 1950 with improvements.
If AFT Act amended the Armed Forces’ Acts ?
- Armed Forces law had seen much criticism both in letter and execution by the High Courts and the Apex Court while exercising writ jurisdiction. The AFT Act, 2007 was enacted to provide for appeal procedure against the in -house grievances related to the conditions of service and the disciplinary proceedings, administrative as well by way of court martial. It is often misunderstood that AFT Act, 2007 amended The Army, Navy and the Airforce Acts. Instead it came out as a legislation to better administer and execute the provisions of these.
- Does AFT Act close the remedy of writs by High Courts? -There is also an ill-founded belief that AFT Act closed the remedy of Writ jurisdiction of the High Courts under article-226 and 227 of the Constitution of India. The writ remedies before High Courts provide without inhibitions, a very large and wide format against any wrongs. AFT Act provides appeal directly to the Supreme Court vide sections 30 and 31 of the Act.
- In my personal views AFT Act is a subordinate legislation and in the scheme of jurisprudence incapable of creating any dents in the provisions enshrined under article-226 and 227 of the Constitution. The Act could not and did not oust the constitutional remedy of the writ jurisdiction which has always been a remedy to be granted at the option and discretion of the high courts under Art-26/27 and even the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the constitution.
What Additional Benefits, Enactment of AFT Act Could Possibly Confer, on Armed Forces Personnel.
- Prior to the enactment of the AFT Act, the only in- house remedies available to armed forces personnel on service matters, ACRs etc, were Non- Statutory and Statutory complaints under sections-26 and 27 of the Army Act. Similarly petitions against any order or finding of the court martial proceedings were petitions to the convening authority or the Chief of the Army Staff under section-164 of the Army Act. However, if any person still felt aggrieved despite the remedies discussed herein above, he/she had to prefer a writ petition or similar remedies before the civil courts. Writ jurisdiction before the High Courts and the Supreme Court is a discretionary jurisdiction of such courts and unless material procedural irregularity or violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution was shown, the courts refrained from interfering in the proceedings. Review of evidence was also minimal.
- AFT Act brought additional in- house remedies. The prominent additional benefits which AFT Act facilitated are listed below: –
- A two-fold system of redressal grievance mechanism on service matters under section 14 of the AFT Act, inter alia
- Review of any order rejecting the complaints under Army Act Section-26 and 27 by military authorities/central Government as the case may be.
- Direct filing of complaints in AFT, in case of undecided matters pending since long.
- Provision for filing of petitions/applications for obtaining interim or final orders and for seeking relief against any irregularity, illegality by ongoing courts martial.
- Provision for petitions/applications for obtaining suspension of sentence/bails/parole/release from custody.
- Provision to obtain stay against any court of inquiry, summary of evidence, courts martial or administrative punitive proceedings in appropriate circumstances.
- Right of Appeal against any court martial proceeding on grounds of both facts and law.
Any interested person may feel free to approach us through the contact us form on the home page regarding any issue. Also read our notes on courts martial towards the end of this write up in paragraphs 37 onwards.
Hierarchal and Precedential Nature of the Laws
- The preceding line of thinking also brings us to a very important aspect in understanding the laws relating to the armed forces which follow a hierarchy like all others. It implies that in case of conflict, the higher legislation or enactment takes precedent over the lower. An easy way to test the hierarchal placement of a legislation is to look up the legislative body which has passed it. The highest place accorded to the Constitution of India after which come the legislations passed by both houses of the parliament by special majority followed by simple.
- Under the wider umbrella of these legislations, and in order to achieve their better, unambiguous and effective implementation subordinate litigations such as the Rules, Regulations, Administrative Instructions and Orders are formulated and implemented by various subordinate administrative and legislative functionaries. Whenever and wherever, there are inter se conflicts between any of these, the one lower has to give way. It is implied that all subordinate legislations are enacted to give force and elaboration to the enactments by the parliament which in themselves draw strength and enforce the Constitution. A suggested order of precedence of the Armed Forces Laws is stated herein below: —
-The AFT Act
-The Army/Navy/Air Force Act
-The AFT/Army/Navy/Air Force Rules
-Defence Services Regulations/Army/Navy/Airforce Orders/Instructions.
- It may be said generally that the Acts mostly contain the substantive law which generally interpreted means the strict covenants as to the code of conduct governing the military service. What constitutes the deviation therefrom and the extent to which the same is to be penalised is mostly covered under the Acts. They also cover the authorities, methods and manner in which such powers are to be exercised.
- Rules generally cover the expansion of working details of the provisions given in the Acts. In my views they are the Acts put into motion. Regulations/ Orders/Instructions further contain the elaborations and minute day to day functioning instructions and procedures, forms and formats for recording various routine events related to the Act and Rules.
- The AFT Act and Rules provide a mechanism for redressal of grievance against the administrative and quasi -judicial grievances which are not redressed up to the Chief or Central Government level. In one way or the other, AFT Act provides relieves against the grievances which find their origin in Army/Navy/Airforce Act, Rules, Regulations, Orders and Instructions.
- Restrictions on Fundamental Rights and Service Privileges- There are some unfounded beliefs that fundamental rights of persons who are subject to the Armed Forces Act remain curtailed. The legal position on this aspect is however substantially different. Under Section-21 of the Army Act and similar ones under the Navy or Airforce Act the Central Government is granted the powers to restrict the fundamental rights on the subject of participation and formation of trade unions, public demonstrations and communication with the press publications. There are no other restrictions on fundamental rights on all other aspects including the rights to life and personal liberty, though the same may be regulated through the Acts, Rules and service conditions. The Acts provide for certain service privileges which primarily relate to priority in respect of army personnel’s litigation.
Arrest and custody of person subject to the Army Act by Civil Authorities/Courts
- In the prevailing times, one of the most useful safeguard though not listed as a privilege, comes in the form of Section-45 of the CrPC which provides that no member of the Armed Forces of the Union, shall be arrested for anything done or purported to be done by him, in the discharge of his official duties, except after obtaining the consent of the Central Government.
- Another set of often ignored but material and important provisions which accord different status to armed forces personnel accused of an offence are Sctions-3(ii), 69, 70 and 125 of the Army Act read with section 475. A combined reading of these provisions leads us to the following deductions: —
- Person(s) subject to the Armed Forces Act who is accused of any civil offence against other(s) also subject to Army Act whether within cantonment or outside, then military authorities have the priority in trying such an offence by a military court over the criminal courts and for this purpose of procuring his/their custody if already arrested or detained by civil authorities.
- Person(s) subject to the Armed Forces Act who is accused of any civil offence other than murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, or rape against other(s) not subject to Army Act whether within cantonment or outside but other than on active service, at any place outside India, or at notified frontier post, then military authorities have the priority in trying such an offence by a military court over the criminal courts and for this purpose of procuring his/their custody if already arrested or detained by civil authorities.
- When person(s) subject to the Armed Forces Act who is accused of any civil offence of murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, or rape against other(s) not subject to Army Act other than on active service, at any place outside India, or at notified frontier post, then military authorities have no jurisdiction in trying such an offence by a military court and criminal courts alone have the rights to procure his/their custody if already arrested or detained by military authorities.
- A person(s) subject to the Armed Forces Act who is accused of any civil offence of murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, or rape against other(s) not subject to Army Act while on active service, at any place outside India, or at notified frontier post, then military authorities have the priority in trying such an offence by a military court over the criminal courts and for this purpose of procuring his/their custody if already arrested or detained by civil authorities.
- For procedure to be adopted for procuring back custody of the person(s) subject to Armed Forces Act, any interested person may feel free to contact us through the contact us form on the home page.
Fact Finding/Investigations in the Armed Forces Courts of Inquiry etc.
- With the discussion in the preceding paragraphs which covers the aspects of superintending general knowledge about armed forces’ law, we now shift to the working level aspects. The foremost aspect which comes to my mind is about the establishment of the facts related to any event or incident which warrant an investigation. The provisions related to the first stage of inquiry are contained much later i.e. Army Rules -177 to 184 and in my personal view would have featured better chronologically if they had been placed earlier in the scheme of rules. Notwithstanding their placement in the later half, they continue to be the first, most used and exercised provisions while officially starting the journey of the discovery of truth.
- The provisions related to the courts of inquiry are quite similar to and draw a parallel with those contained in police investigations under the Cr.PC. Both come under the category of preliminary investigations and are inadmissible in evidence. But since the facts under inquiry relate to highly disciplined and regulated force in case of the court of inquiries, the two differ largely in methodology. The salient points related to court of inquiries and procedures thereof described under sections-177 to 186 are stated herein below: –
- A court of inquiry can be conducted only by minimum a Non-Commissioned Officer or above and a mix group thereof who may be directed to collect evidence. The author finds it strange that primary object of the courts of inquiry is to collect evidence but according to Army Rule(AR) -182 the same are inadmissible in evidence except for the purposes of cross examination of witnesses or upon the trial of such person for wilfully giving wrong evidence.
- Court of inquiry may be asked prepare report on any matter which may be referred to them.
- Court of inquiry may be assembled by any officer in command.
- Members of the court of inquiry are not sworn or affirmed though witnesses are duly warned except when the court of inquiry
- is on recovered prisoners of war,
- is to inquire into illegal absence,
- is so directed by the officer assembling the court in any other case
In above mentioned eventualities the court (of inquiry) shall administer the oath or affirmation to witnesses as if the court were a court martial.
- If character or military reputation of any person subject to the Army Act (other than of a prisoner of war whose presence is not possible to procure under the circumstances) is affected, then such a person has following specific and reasonably exhaustive rights: —
- full opportunity of being present throughout the inquiry and of making any statement, and
- of giving any evidence he may wish to make or give, and
- of cross examining any witness whose evidence in his opinion, affects his character or military reputation and
- of producing any witness in defence of his character and military reputation.
- Courts of Inquiry are very important proceedings despite the fact that they can’t be used as evidence in most cases. In most cases, where disciplinary proceedings are envisaged against any person subject to the Armed Forces Act, they form the basis for ‘Hearing of Charge’ proceedings under Army Rule-22. Compliance of proceedings under Army Rule-22 in letter and spirit is a mandatory requirement for any disciplinary proceedings to withstand the scrutiny of law on the grounds of fairness and legal safeguards enshrined for the benefit of an accused person. Hence, in cases where hearing of charge is held on the basis of court of inquiry proceedings, in which provisions of Army Rule-180 stand invoked, it is the bonafide and fairness of court of inquiry which is continuously tested at each subsequent stage. Inadequate or improper compliance of Army Rule-180 often leads to proceedings under Army Rule-22 getting vitiated and which in turn vitiates the entire proceedings even if court martial proceedings are carried out properly.
- In case of the administrative proceedings initiated under section-19 and 20 of the Army Act read with Army Rules-14 and 17, on the basis of the court of inquiry, the scrutiny and implications of the same have far reaching effects. The sum total of the incriminating material and evidence, behind adverse action against a person subject to the Act in such type of proceedings, is the court of inquiry proceedings. In such cases the court of inquiry proceedings conducted by persons who do not perform legal duties and are trained scantily on legal matters are put to the severest test by the subsequent judicial authorities right up to the Apex Court. It is also for this reason that court of inquiries are conducted in the most fair and methodical manner without fear or favour from any quarters.
- In cases where administrative action is initiated against any person subject to the Armed Forces Act on the basis of court of inquiry proceedings then also fairness and proper compliance of Army Rule-180 becomes the most material aspect which may otherwise lead to setting aside of the adverse administrative action against any such individual.
- Notwithstanding the foregoing narrative, it is imperative that court of inquiries are conducted in most free and fair manner, and undue influence from any quarters is best avoided or paid no heed to. Improper or biased conduct of court of inquiries can invite much peril, injustice and suffering for an innocent person or let a guilty escape the due punishment in all fairness and calls of justice.
- Persons entitled to court of inquiry proceedings– The following two categories of persons are entitled to copies of statements and documents-
- Any person who is tried by a court martial as relevant to his prosecution or defence at the trial.
- Any person subject to the act whose character or military reputation is affected by the evidence before a court of inquiry unless the COAS for reasons recorded in writing orders otherwise.
For an Individual What Ordinarily Follows the Court of Inquiry?
- If the court of inquiry and the convening authority, concur that conduct of the person, whose character and military reputation was at stake, does not come out blameworthy and liable to be proceeded against, the matter closes for such an individual. Though there are no restrictions in reconvening the court of inquiry, if it could be seen that the same has not been held properly or misses the material aspects.
- On the contrary if the court of inquiry finds that conduct of any person in whose respect provisions of Rule-180 were complied with, is found blameworthy then the commanding officer of such a person has to commence with the proceedings under Rule-22. If the court of inquiry finds reasons to believe that conduct of any person subject to Act, indicates culpability in commission of any crime or irregularity, but provisions of Rule-180 were not complied with in his respect then the matter needs to be reported to convening authority who may either instruct the court of inquiry with fresh direction for compliance of rule-180 in his respect or reconvene a fresh one for the purpose.
Further Investigation of Charges – Hearing of Charge by Commanding Officer Proceedings under Rules -22 to 24.
- The military terminology for hearing of charge under Army Rule-22 is ‘march up’ and that in the Criminal Procedure Code is ‘cognizance of offence’. Hearing of charge in plain words means that commanding officer of the person accused of an offence under the act personally hears or goes through the incriminating material in accused’s presence and is required to afford full opportunity
- to cross examine any witness against him, and
- to call any witnesses in his favour, and
- to make any statement necessary for his defence.
- However, if the charge against the accused arises as a result of investigations by a court of inquiry, wherein the provisions of Army Rule-180 have been complied with in respect of the accused, the commanding officer may dispense with the procedure as mentioned above and as also in sub-rule (1) of Army Rule-22.
- After conducting the proceedings under rule-22, the commanding officer shall dismiss a charge if in his opinion the evidence does not show that an offence under the act has been committed. He may also do so if he is satisfied that the charge ought not to be proceeded with. However, the commanding officer can not dismiss a charge under sections-34, 37 or 69 of the Act without reference to the superior authority.
- However, if after conduct of the proceedings as above, if the commanding officer is of the opinion that the charge ought to be proceeded with, he shall within a reasonable time take any one of the following steps: –
- Dispose of the case under section-80. This option is available only in respect of persons other than officers, junior commissioned officer and warrant officers and the maximum power of punishment under this section is imprisonment up to 28 days singly or in case of punishments clubbed jointly- 42 days detention, or
- refer the case to the proper superior military authority, or
- adjourn the case for the purpose of having the evidence reduced to writing which in other words means order recording of the ‘summary of evidence’, or
- order trial by summary court martial in respect of persons below the rank of warrant officer. This power can be exercised only after making a reference with the officer empowered to convene a district court martial or on active service a summary general court martial for the trial of the accused unless the offence is triable by a summary court martial without any reference to such officer or in the circumstances which the commanding officer considers that there are grave reasons for immediate action and such reference can not be made without detriment to discipline.
Note- It is in the spirit of fair play and equity that the commanding officer makes a speaking order in support of his exercise of quasi- judicial/ administrative powers.
- In case upon recording the ‘summary of evidence’ it emerges that evidence suggests an offence different from the one which was investigated upon then commanding officer may frame suitable charge (s) on the basis of available evidence.
- Procedure for taking down the summary evidence is well described in Army Rule-23. It has following salient points: –
- Commanding Officer or such officer as directed by him shall record statements of all the witnesses who deposed earlier before the commanding officer and with further interpretation of the rule who gave statement at the court of inquiry on which hearing of charge under army rule-22 was conducted and still further of any person whose evidence appears to be relevant.
- The accused has the liberty to cross examine any witness and put such questions as he thinks fit to any witness. The question and answers shall be added to the evidence recorded.
- Each of the statement and question answers so taken down need shall be read over to the accused and signed by him as a token of correctness.
- After examination of the witnesses as above the accused person then shall be asked to make any statement if he so desires and the same recorded similarly but he is not to be cross examined.
- After his statement the accused is permitted to call any witness in his defence including any witness as to his character.
- The record is made in English language and in case the accused does not understand English then the same is interpreted to the language which he understands.
- if a person can not be compelled to attend as a witness (under certificate by officer recording summary of evidence), then his signed evidence may be read to the accused and attached to the proceedings.
- Persons not subject to military law may also be summoned by the commanding officer.
- The summary of evidence as above shall be considered by the commanding officer who thereupon either-
(a) remand the accused for a court martial, or
(b) refer the case to proper superior military authority, or
(c) if he thinks desirable, re hear the case and either dismiss the charge or dispose it off summarily.
Where do the proceedings stand and where are they headed up to/after the conclusion stage of Army Rule-22 to 24/ Hearing of Charge and Remand of the Accused.
- It is a very pertinent to ascertain that where do the proceedings stand, as per the letter of law, at the conclusion of two most important initial stages, inter alia, the court of inquiry and the hearing of charge. For this one needs to re-visit the proceedings and look into the options available to the authorities and then analyse the ones taken by them. It is better done by breaking the proceedings into the following two stages for the purpose of evaluation: —
- Court of Inquiry– After final conclusion of the court of inquiry and perusal of the findings and opinion thereof, the commanding officer and/or he superior military authority (ies) have following recourses: —
(i) Close the case.
(ii) On the basis of court of inquiry proceedings take recourse to administrative action under Army Act sections 19 and 20 by following the procedure under Army Rule 14 and 17 as relevant.
- Proceed with Hearing of Charge starting with Army Rules -22 to 24 and depending on the evidence and in totally of circumstances dismiss the charge.
- Hearing of Charge or the proceedings under Army Rules-22 to 24– Proceed with Hearing of Charge starting with Army Rules -22 to 24 and depending on the evidence and in totally of circumstances take recourse to any one of the following: —
- administrative action as stated in a(ii) above, or
(ii) commence disciplinary proceedings by way of summary disposal under section-80, 81 for other ranks and under sections 83, 84 and 85 for officers, junior commissioned officers and warrant officers, or
(iii) either assemble a summary court martial with reference or apply to the proper military authority to convene a court martial, as the case may require.
Kinds, powers etc of courts martial
- Army Act sections 108 to 120 discuss and elaborate the kinds, convening authority, competence and powers of courts martial namely- general courts- martial, district courts- martial, summary general courts- martial; and summary courts- martial. There have not been many successful challenges to constitution etc of the court martial except on the ground of proper judge advocate being part of the same, wherever and whenever prescribed by the Act and the Rules. For these reasons we leave this topic here and proceed to discussing the methodology of court martial proceedings.
Prohibition on Second Trial and Period of Limitation for Trial-
- Army Act Section- 121. Prohibition of second trial. -When any person subject to this Act has been acquitted or convicted of an offence by a court- martial or by a criminal court or has been dealt with under any of the sections 80, 83, 84 and 85, he shall not be liable to be tried again for the same offence by a court martial or dealt with under the said sections.
- Army Act section-122. Period of limitation for trial.
- Except as provided by sub- section (2), no trial by court- martial of any person subject to this Act for any offence shall be commenced after the expiration of a period of three years and such period shall commence,
(a) on the date of the offence; or
(b) where the commission of the offence was not known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to the authority competent to initiate action, the first day on which such offence comes to the knowledge of such person or authority, whichever is earlier; or
(c) where it is not known by whom the offence was com- mitted, the first day on which the identity of the offender is known to the person aggrieved by the offence or to the authority competent to initiate action, whichever is earlier.
(2) The provisions of sub- section (1) shall not apply to a trial for an offence of desertion or fraudulent enrolment or for any of the offences mentioned in section 37.
(3) In the computation of the period of time mentioned in sub- section (1), any time spent by such person as a prisoner of war, or in enemy territory, or in evading arrest after the commission of the offence, shall be excluded.
(4) No trial for an offence of desertion other than desertion on active service or of fraudulent enrolment shall be commenced if the person in question, not being an officer, has subsequently to the commission of the offence, served continuously in an exemplary manner for not less than three years with any portion of the regular Army.
Defence at Courts Martial Proceedings
- There are no thumb rules for defending the courts martial. Having gone through the GCM himself, author of this write up can visualize each stage of the courts martial proceedings from the eye of a person who sits in the accused chair. Once into the trap of a court martial it is not enough to be simply innocent. I have not come across a court martial which is totally fair and just for the accused. The standards and degree of fairness is mostly proportionate to the rank of the person being tried and his networking capabilities. In case of financial irregularities and defrauding matters, the involvement of chain of people in command in invariably there. Army follows a hierarchical system of financial powers accounting, checks and balances. Bigger the level of fraud-higher the level of people involved.
- Courts martial on operational matters, are no different than the financial ones. Operational powers, command and control structure is also similarly hierarchical in case of the two. The blame of operational inadequacies, blunders and follies of the higher lot is often borne on the shoulders of persons at the grassroot and working levels i.e. junior officers at best up to the rank of Colonels.
- One would notice that in practice, misdeeds of senior officers are at best punished with administrative actions and the maximum punishment rarely exceeds denial of pension to the delinquent senior officers. Against this, the standards for officers and men below colonel rank are different and their perceived delinquency is dealt with an iron fist. The standards and degree of proof or evidence also vary according to the rank and service of the person involved.
- However, this reality seldom comes out on record and where it does is ignored. The general courts martial are mostly conducted by judge advocate, who is the legally trained mind working to favour and support the findings of guilt returned at the earlier investigations i.e. the court of inquiry and the summary of evidence. Unlike in the independent civil courts, departmental bias is invariably at work against the person facing the trial, unless he is from the senior ranks and service bracket. Even under the newer system of review of court martial proceedings by the AFT, departmental bias refuse to let go. Ultimately, it is the apex court which finally settles the issues, if the individual is still left with resources and energy to let his case make it to that level. It is for this reason that our write up concentrates on the line of defence which would adequately assist the hon’ble Apex court to arrive at the truth.
- We work on the strategies of better defence at a court martial backwards i.e. work on a plan which would enable better chances of getting relief at the Apex Court if and when the matter reaches that stage. In my views as a victim of military justice system and as an advocate, it is the oft ignored pleas in run up to the courts martial, which facilitate better opportunities of defence. The Apex court hears appeals against the final decision or order of the Tribunal if the case involves a point of law of general public importance or the point which ought to be considered by the Supreme Court. In my view as a counsel for defence, the pleas under Army Rules-51, 52, 53, 57 and test of compliance and proper application of Army Rules-22 to 24, 56, 58, 60, 102 to 105, hold the key to qualify as a the one under point of law of general public importance or the point which Supreme court may find ought to be considered by their lordships. Pre-trial proceedings such as courts of inquiry and the hearing of charge, also hold the key to showing the courts martial proceedings as ‘vitiated’, in their very inception and formulation.
- It is the ‘mistake of law’ by courts martial which draw quicker intervention by civil courts than the ones with ‘mistake of fact’, same as a case of ‘no evidence’ as compared to a case of scanty or unreliable evidence. The civil courts at the level of High and Supreme courts find easier to interfere in cases with complicated questions of law rather than the facts. It is for these reasons, that courts martial proceedings must be defended with skill and in a manner, that would outwit not only the prosecution, but also the judge advocate, who in my view are there in practice to prevent record of proceedings consistent with emergence of truth and innocence of the accused, against whom their department has already formed a prejudicial opinion.
- The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 applies to the courts martial proceedings subject to the provisions of the Act. Which means that wherever the application of the Indian Evidence Act is not specifically excluded, the provisions thereof apply before the courts martial proceedings.
- Courts martial are quasi- judicial proceedings and are better represented by lawyers and legally trained minds. We find this discussion of how to defend at a court martial indefinitely lengthy for the reason that each court martial comes with its peculiarities and as such the strategy to defending each is better made specifically and on a case to case basis.
Representations of Grievances against Administrative Punitive Action
- The key of strengthening the case of administrative termination under Army Act under sections-19, 20 read with Army rule-14 and 15 lies in filing early and proper replies to the show cause notices. The admissions and denials, whether made constructively or directly, stick with the case right up to its final determination till the Supreme court. All the material and relevant points showing the innocence need to be presented in the reply to the show cause notice.
Representations of Grievances against Faulty ACRs Affecting Promotional Prospects
- It is a usual occurrence that faulty or inappropriate ACRs are not represented against for years and are sought to be modified and moderated, upon non- empanelment and non- selection in promotion boards due to them, years later. The law favours a grievance better, when the same is taken up before appropriate authority promptly and properly by way of appropriate remedies.