Court questions government on discouraging woman army officers

Court questions government on discouraging woman army officers

The Supreme Court Monday questioned the government on its approach of discouraging short service commission women officers opting for permanent commission in the army.

"Why are you not encouraging the women officers and indulging in the game of pick and choose," said a bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale. The court's statement came while dismissing a plea by the central government challenging the April 18, 2011 order of the Armed Forces Tribunal directing the defence ministry to give Maj. Leena Gaurav her next rank and pay and bringing her under a permanent commission.

Dismissing the petition, Justice Lodha asked the government: "Why, without compromising the quality, don't you incentivise the women officers to continue in the army?" "What was so sacrosanct about JAG (Judge Advocate General) departmental examination" to qualify for permanent commission, the court asked when Additional Solicitor General Atul Nanda pleaded that Maj. Gaurav could not be considered for permanent commissioning unless she cleared the examination.

The court described the departmental examination as nothing but an "artificial hurdle". "This is nothing but an artificial hurdles created by you," the court told Nanda. Gaurav's counsel Rekha Palli told the court that the woman officer, presently posted in the Lucknow-based Central Command of the army, has cleared much higher promotional examination.

Asking the ASG to give women officers incentives and encourage them, the court said: "Ultimately you know people come to join army for recruitment and when it comes to the option of permanent recruitment, you create hurdles." Describing the entire approach as "very strange", the court told Nanda that "legally also your case is weak and "you are indulging in the game of pick and choose".