SC allows permanent commission to women Navy officers

SC allows permanent commission to women officers in Navy

It ordered all short service commission officers in the education, law and logistics cadres, presently in service should be considered for the grant of permanent commission within a period of three months. (Credit: PTI Photo)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted permanent commission to serving women officers in Indian Navy, by rejecting the Union government's contention that male officers were more suited to certain duties due to physiological characteristics as one "premised on sex stereotypes".

The court said there can't be gender discrimination with the women officers after a statutory bar was lifted by the Centre in 1998 allowing their entry into all the four branches of executive, engineering, electrical and education.

“Performance at work and dedication to the cause of the nation are the surest answers to prevailing gender stereotypes. To deprive serving women officers of the opportunity to work as equals with men in the Indian Navy is plainly discriminatory,” a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta said.

The apex court's judgement came exactly a month after allowing command position as well as permanent commission for women officers in the Indian Army.

Acting on appeals by the Centre against the Delhi HC and Armed Forces Tribunal's directions, the court quashed the Union government's policy letter of September 26, 2008 to the extent that it restricted grants of permanent commission to specified cadres and branches in Navy and only to women officers to be inducted in future.

It ordered all short service commission officers in the education, law and logistics cadres, presently in service should be considered for the grant of permanent commission within a period of three months.

Using its power under the Constitution to do complete justice, the court ordered that the women officers, who were released from service before 2008, should be granted pensionary benefits and should be given Rs 25 lakh as one-time compensation for the loss of service.

The bench pointed out in view of 1999 policy letter by the Ministry of Defence to Chief of Naval Staff, it was “impossible to countenance a submission that women cannot sail alongside men sailors”.

The Union government's contention that women officers are ill-suited to certain avocations since it involved them being aboard ships was “contrary to the equal worth of the women officers who dedicate their lives to serving in the cause of the nation,” the bench said.

“Women officers have worked shoulder to shoulder with their men counterparts in every walk of service," the bench said.

It said the Union government's arguments raising issue of physical strengths and weaknesses did not constitute a constitutionally valid basis for denying equal opportunity to women officers.

“To accept the contention would be to approve the socially ascribed gender roles which a commitment to equal worth and dignity of every individual belies,” the court said.

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