Modi announces permanent commission for women in army

Modi announces permanent commission for women in army

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort on the occasion of 72nd Independence Day, in New Delhi on Wednesday. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday announced granting permanent commission to women in the armed forces, providing an opportunity to several short service commission lady officers to change their career path.

The announcement from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the Independence Day comes nearly four months after the Centre informed the Supreme Court that it was considering granting permanent commission to women army officers, who are currently eligible for short service commission only.

The Prime Minister announced women officers of Short Service Commission in the Indian Armed Forces would now be eligible for permanent commission through a transparent selection process, says a government statement.

In the absence of further clarification from the Defence Ministry, the novelty in the scheme and implementation roadmap remains unclear.

“The contours of implementation of the announcement made by the Prime Minister with respect to the permanent commission for women is being finalized by the ministry,” said a defence ministry official.

There are two routes to enter the Army – either through the direct permanent commission that are permitted for men in all streams and to women in selected areas like law, education and military police. Women also get permanent commission in medical, dental and nursing services.

For women coming through the short service commission route, the option is to work for 10-14 years and retire while men entering through the same route are given an option for permanent commission.

The women SSC officers can work in branches like service corps, intelligence, ordnance, signals and engineering but had to retire after 14 years.

The announcement made by Modi appears to have changed that scenario. But there is no confirmation from the Defence Ministry.

Though women were allowed to enter the armed forces in 1991, for nearly two decades, the entry was through the SSC route. Then a group of 57 women SSC officers from the army went to the court challenging the practice.

After four years of legal battle, they got a favourable verdict from the Delhi High Court that ruled in favour of permanent commission in March 2010.

Indian Air Force implemented the order. The Navy too did it after some delay. But the army through the Defence Ministry appealed against the High Court order in the Supreme Court.

It is during the hearing of that case, a government law officer informed the court that the Centre was not averse to granting of permanent commission to women SSC officers of the army.

In April Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh told the SC bench led by Justice N V Ramana that Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held meetings with the three Service and was open to the idea.

In a tweet, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman Wednesday thanked Modi for making the announcement.

Women are recruited in the armed forces mostly in non-combat and combat-support roles. Most of the combat branches are still off-limits for women with IAF opening up the fighter flying branch for women on an experimental basis for five years and Navy allowing women to fly their long-range spy planes.

As on March, there were only 1561 women officers in the army, 1594 in IAF and 644 in navy. The count doesn't include the women officers in medical, dental and nursing services. In comparison, there are more than 41,000 men in army and 10,000 plus men each in IAF and navy.

Women are recruited only as officers and not as troops.



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