Tap to Read ➤

Your Guide to Understanding the Meaning of Dereliction of Duty

Anup Patwardhan May 10, 2019
When an employee consciously makes himself unavailable to perform his duties, then it is termed as dereliction of duty. The motive behind dereliction in performing one's duty is mostly devious and with sinister intentions.

Interesting Fact

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) was created before the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It was earlier known as the British Articles of War.
Obeying a direct or indirect order is up to the person to whom the orders are given. For some of us, it can be a very difficult job to obey someone and follow the orders implicitly. Defense services, however, is one such field where it is binding for men/women of junior cadre to follow legal orders coming from their seniors, with no questions asked.
Serving and defending a nation by standing on the frontiers is not an easy job. It requires mental strength as well as physical agility. A soldier has to endure the harshest of circumstances to survive. Breaking down in such scenarios is not unheard of. What happens if a serviceman decides not to follow a particular order, or fails to perform his duties?

Dereliction of Duty

Dereliction of duty means to abandon or forsake one's duties. When a serviceman knowingly incapacitates himself from performing duties, then he is guilty of dereliction of duty. This also includes not following the given lawful orders. A court martial is convened against the person in question, and he is punished as per the verdict.
A serviceman can fail in his task or is unable to follow the given orders by being unavailable on account of:

◆ Shooting himself
◆ Vacating a post when ordered against
◆ Vacating a post without being properly relieved
◆ Turning up inebriated for duty
◆ Falling asleep during a task that needed wakeful awareness
As such, he can be charged with dereliction of duty. This is also applicable when negligent behavior of a serviceman is criminal in nature.
Duties or orders can be given to a serviceman through standard operating procedures, treaties, statutes, regulations, lawful orders, etc. The accused will be convicted if found guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Now, an accused can be proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt through various means. This includes testimonials of servicemen in similar position, training manuals and regulations, among other ways.

Uniform Code of Military Justice

The Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ provides directives to Military Law in the United States of America. It is under these guidelines that a court martial is conducted. The jurisdiction of UCMJ extends over all the uniformed services in America.
Guidelines about dereliction of duty under UCMJ are provided in 'Punitive Articles'; Section 892, Article 92. In accordance to this article, when a serviceman fails in obeying any lawful order(s) given by any member of an armed force, or fails to willingly perform his duties, is punishable by a sentence that the serviceman is sentenced to in a court martial.
However, this does not apply if the failure in the following of the orders was not a conscious decision. The inability to follow the orders or complete a task may have been due to failure in communication, faulty equipment, or the like. For these and similar reasons, a person cannot be charged with dereliction of duty.

Counseling Statement

A counseling statement is similar to a memo, wherein, it is brought to an employee's attention about his violation of company's policies. This is the least severe of disciplinary actions. There are guidelines provided to avoid any more such violations in the future, along with pointers to improve performance.
Incompetence is a defense against dereliction of duty. A person convicted of dereliction is given a dishonorable discharge from the services. There may be some jail time involved. If it resulted in a major setback in certain operation(s), the person may have to face impeachment or treason charges. During wartime, dereliction can attract capital punishment.
If a person is charged for dereliction purely out of spite, or just to make someone accountable for the losses, then, in such a case, the charges levied do not hold ground.