Junior commissioned officer (JCO) is a term describing a group of military ranks found in the Indian Army, Pakistan Army, Bangladesh Army and Nepal Army. Those soldiers holding JCO rank receive a commission from the President with commanding power.
During British rule, these officers were known as viceroy's commissioned officers (VCOs) except in Nepal, which was never a British colony. Under the British, there was a clear colonial context, until 1866 VCOs being the highest ranks that most Indians could achieve while most commissioned officers were British.
Senior non-commissioned officers are promoted to JCO rank on the basis of merit and seniority, restricted by the number of vacancies. Junior commissioned officers are treated as a separate class, and hold many additional privileges. In the army, they have a separate mess (the JCOs' mess, the CPOs' mess or the WOs' mess), get well furnished family quarters, and are authorized to travel in AC II tier on the railways and economy class in airlines. With good pay and privileges, it is an ambition of most enlisted men to attain such rank.
Due to their long years of service and experience, officers accord JCOs great respect and influence, especially in cases involving the enlisted ranks, their welfare and morale. Another custom religiously followed is that a JCO is never addressed using just his name or rank. The word saheb (master) is added as a suffix (e.g.: "Subedar Saheb" or <Name> Saheb). The JCO ranks in the Indian Army and Pakistan Army (from highest to lowest) are:
- Subedar major (infantry and other arms) & risaldar-major (cavalry and armour)
- Subedar & risaldar
- Naib subedar & naib risaldar.
- Master chief petty officer class 1 (India) & master chief petty officer (Pakistan)
- Master chief petty officer class 2 (India) & fleet chief petty officer (Pakistan)
- Chief petty officer
- Master warrant officer (India) & chief warrant officer (Pakistan)
- Warrant officer
- Junior warrant officer (India) & assistant warrant officer (Pakistan)
While Army JCOs receive a parchment from the president on commissioning, naval chief petty officer ranks and the air force warrant officer ranks receive a presidential warrant on promotion. This is a certificate issued on behalf of the President of India or the President of Pakistan to authenticate the promotion of a sailor to the chief rank, an airman to warrant rank. The warrant is made on pre-printed stationery written by hand.
All army JCOs, navy chief petty officers and air force warrant ranks (JWO to MWO) are group B officers with class-II gazetted (non-gazetted in India) status. Army JCOs are authorised salutes (including rifle salutes if given by an armed soldier, sailor or airman) while Indian air force MWO, navy chief petty officers are not authorized any form of salute. The status of class-II gazetted officer is bestowed on them from the date of granting such rank irrespective of when they physically receive the presidential warrant. All JCOs are authorized to attest any legal document or certificate, and can initiate the arrest of any person whom they deem has violated the constitution.
There is also a custom of giving honorary commissions to deserving junior commissioned officers. Every year a list of eligible JCOs is drawn up based on meritorious service and honorary commissions are awarded on 26 January (India), 23 March (Pakistan) and 14 or 15 August in Pakistan and India respectively. This could be within the last year of service or post retirement.
Honorary commissioned officers wear the appropriate rank insignia, but they do not become members of the officers' mess. They do, however, receive the pay and pension of their honorary rank. The honorary ranks in the various forces are:
Generally, in official documents the junior commissioned officer rank held by the officer is also added before the honorary commission rank. For example, "subedar & honorary lieutenant" or "subedar major & honorary captain".
- Manual of Naval Law page 181
- Pakistan Navy Rule part 1 page IV
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