Contempt notice to Army chief on permanent commission for women

Last Updated : 05 July 2010, 11:41 IST
Last Updated : 05 July 2010, 11:41 IST

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Justice G.S. Sistani also issued notice to Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar and the adjutant general at Army Headquarters, Lt. Gen. Mukesh Sabharwal, on a contempt petition filed by women short service commission officers alleging that the Indian Army is still to grant them permanent commissions and other monetary benefits ordered by the court.

All three have been asked to reply by August 18. Acting on a petition filed in 2007 by 60 women short service commission officers, the court had asked the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) to grant them permanent commissions.

The IAF had last month granted permanent commissions to 22 of the petitioners but the Indian Army is yet to act on the order.

Of the 22, two are still serving while 20 have retired after serving for 14 years as short service commission officers.

With their reinstatement, they will now be able to serve the same number of years as their male counterparts. Depending on the rank they rise to, male permanent commission officers can serve up to the age of 60.

An IAF officer, however, clarified that the extension in service granted to the 22 women officers was a one-time exception. Hitherto, male short service commissioned officers could opt for a permanent commission after completing 14 years of service. Women officers did not have this option.

“Two years ago, there was a policy decision that there could be no opting for a permanent commission. This will ensure there is no gender discrimination,” the officer said.

“This will continue unless there is a change in policy,” he added.

In its landmark March 12 ruling, the Delhi High Court asked the government to treat women and men officers in the army and air force at par while granting permanent commissions, saying “greater sensitivity was required” while dealing with gender issues.
A division bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.C. Garg also ordered the reinstatement of all women short service commission officers who had to retire after being refused a permanent commission.

The court said its ruling was applicable only to women recruited in the IAF and the Indian Army before 2006, when the short service commission tenure went up from 10 to 14 years.

Women are now eligible for permanent commission only in the education, legal, medical, nursing and dental services of the armed forces. They get to serve for a shorter duration in non-combat or support arms of the armed forces.

Currently, 5,137 women officers serve in the armed forces. They include 4,101 in the Indian Army, 784 in IAF, and 252 in Indian Navy. This includes women granted permanent commissions in the Army Medical Corps, the Army Dental Corps and their equivalents in the other two services as also in the Military Nursing Service.

In the army, women serve in support arms like the Corps of Signals, Army Ordnance Corps, the Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers and the Army Service Corps.
In the IAF, women are inducted in all streams barring the fighter stream. In the Indian Navy there are restrictions on posting women officers aboard ships and submarines.

Published 05 July 2010, 11:41 IST

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