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SC rules in favour of women Army officers, allows permanent commission

shish Tripathi
Last Updated : 17 February 2020, 13:21 IST
Last Updated : 17 February 2020, 13:21 IST
Last Updated : 17 February 2020, 13:21 IST
Last Updated : 17 February 2020, 13:21 IST

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Breaking the glass ceiling, the Supreme Court on Monday opened the command position in Indian Army for women officers as well, by holding that their absolute exclusion was indefensible and discriminatory as they have worked shoulder-to-shoulder to their male counterparts and brought laurels to the force.

Denying women Army officers an opportunity to be in the permanent commission on the ground of social norms and physiological features was premised on sex stereotypes and was disturbing. It also went against the solemn constitutional values which every institution in the nation was bound to uphold and facilitate, the court said.

The top court accepted the Union government's policy decision of February 25, 2019 to grant permanent commission to women Army Officers but with conditions that it would apply on all female officers, irrespective of the period of service. It would be applicable on all those within the period of 14 years of service and beyond, in 10 streams of Indian Army, including Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence.

The top court also ordered that women officers can also be considered for command position in Indian Army, brushing aside the reservations expressed by the Union government.

“An absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14....The blanket non-consideration of women for criteria or command appointments absent an individuated justification by the Army cannot be sustained in law,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said.

Justice Chandrachud authored the 54-page judgement on an appeal filed by the Ministry of Defence against the Delhi High Court's judgement of March 12, 2010.

Though the Centre took a decision in 2019 to grant permanent commission of women officers, it submitted a written note listing out issues faced by the female officers like pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families, physiological limitations and minimal facility for habitat and hygiene.

These “only go to emphasise the need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army” and “to detract from the vital role that has been played by women SSC officers in the line of duty”, the court said.

“Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission,” the bench said.

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Published 17 February 2020, 05:27 IST

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