Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) is a term used for a group of military personnel which is higher than havildars and lower than lieutenants; this term is only used by Bangladesh, India and Pakistan. Senior havildars are promoted to JCO rank on the basis of merit and seniority, restricted by the number of vacancies. JCOs are treated as a separate class and hold many privileges. With good pay and privileges, it is an ambition of most enlisted men to attain such rank. Primarily the term was associated with armies but since 2000s India and Pakistan's navies and forces are using the term to indicate their Chief Petty Officers and Warrant Officers. The British Indian Army recruited Gurkha soldiers from Nepal since the 19th century and separate Gurkha Regiments were created for them, the Gurkha soldiers got same ranks as other Indian soldiers; the modern Nepal Army officially made the Indian Army rank system for their soldiers in 1960s through a series of reorganizations and the 'JCO' term is being used by them from then. After the secession of East Pakistan in 1971 the Bangladesh Army inherited the 'JCO' rank system from Pakistan Army though since early 2000s the army uses the Warrant Officer terms.
In the British Indian Army during the British Raj, JCOs 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, with the VCOs being the highest ranks that an Indian could attain while the full commissioned officers were British. However, by the time of independence in 1947, there were many Indian (and Pakistani) officers who had graduated from the Royal Military College, Sandhurst or the Indian Military Academy.
In the army, JCOs have a separate mess (the JCOs' mess), and are entitled to travel in AC 2 Tier on the railways and by air economy class (while on temporary duty or other movements). In the infantry, all JCO ranks have the word subedar in them, whereas the cavalry equivalent is risaldar.
JCOs holding the rank of Naib Subedar or Subedar often serve as platoon commanders in an infantry company in place of lieutenants, with a major as the company commander and a captain as second-in-command. JCOs holding the rank of Subedar Major assist their battalion's commanding officer in the same way as a regimental sergeant major would, to the extent that the equivalent rank of regimental havildar major is now almost obsolete in the Indian Army.
In the Indian Army, due to their long years of service, officers accord JCOs great respect and JCOs have a great amount of 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 sahib (sir) is added as a suffix, e.g. a subedar named Pritam Singh would be addressed as either Subedar Sahib or Pritam Singh Sahib.
Sailors receive a warrant on promotion to the rank of Chief Petty Officer and this is a certificate issued by the Commodore Bureau of Sailors on behalf of the President of India/Pakistan to authenticate the promotion of a sailor to the Chief Petty Officer rank, as the CPO/MCPO II/MCPO I ranks are Junior Commissioned ranks. The Warrant is made on pre-printed stationery written by hand.
- Master Chief Petty Officer Class 1
Master Chief Petty Officer (Pakistan)
- Master Chief Petty Officer Class 2
Fleet Chief Petty Officer (Pakistan)
- Chief Petty Officer
- Master Warrant Officer
Chief Warrant Officer (Pakistan)
- Warrant Officer
- Junior Warrant Officer
Assistant Warrant Officer (Pakistan)
There is also a custom of giving honorary commissions to deserving JCOs. Every year a list of eligible JCOs is drawn up and honorary commissions awarded to them. This could be at the time of retirement, or when still in service. Honorary commissioned officers may 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:
Indian Air Force:
Generally, in official documents the JCO rank held by the person is also added before the Honorary Commission rank.
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- Kumar, M. K. Sunil (16 May 2012). "Rules of the Raj hindering havildars' promotion". The New Indian Express. Retrieved 3 August 2015.
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- Personnel Services Directorate. "Psdte311212" (PDF). Retrieved 4 December 2015.
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