'Give Permanent Commission To Women Who Fought Gender Bias In Forces,' Supreme Court Tells Govt
The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to decide on providing a permanent commission to women officers in the armed forces under the Short Service Commission (SSC) before 2019.
Under the SSC, women officers can serve in the Army for 14 years only. However, the Army has notified permanent commission to all the women officers who joined the forces after March 2019 under the SSC.
A bench led by justice DY Chandrachud clarified to the Centre’s counsel that it did not welcome the prospective implementation of the notification, leaving out a number of women, who for over a decade are fighting in the courts to get absorbed in the Indian Army as permanent commission officers, claiming parity with their male counterparts.
“We are giving you an opportunity. We can pass an order, but we are allowing you to take credit for it. These are women in service of the nation. If you give them permanent commission, think what message you will send to the world,” justice Chandrachud told additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, giving a deadline of November 28 to respond, The Hindustan Times reported.
The apex court is currently hearing an appeal filed by the Centre against the Delhi High Court’s March 2010 verdict directing the armed forces to give women army officers permanent commission under the SSC. As the matter remains undecided, the petitioners continue to be in service as SSC officers. Some of them have been serving for nearly 20 years, while SSC term for women as well as men ends in 14 years.
The government in March 2019 agreed to provide permanent commission in 10 branches of Army which include, Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence.
As per the new system, SSC women officers will be required to notify if they want a permanent commission within four years of their service. Earlier, women were given permanent commission in two streams only, Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps. Male short service commissioned officers can opt for the permanent commission before the end of 10 years of service.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi also supported permanent commission for women and announced the change in policy in Independence Day speech in 2018.
Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhatti, appearing for the women officers lawyers, said that the Indian Army has offered to grant permanent commission to women officers prospectively, from April 2020.
“The notification allowing a permanent commission to women in 10 branches excludes women who fought against gender bias in the forces,” she said.
The Indian Air Force opened all branches including fighter pilots for women officers, according to the Ministry of Defence’s March 2019 notification.
In the navy, all non-sea branches and specialisations were opened for the induction of women officers through the Short Service Commission. Women SSC officers have been made eligible for permanent commission in the Naval Armament branch at par with male officers, the notification added.