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Hope to See Women Command a Warship, Says Officer Who Waged a Legal Battle on SSC for Women in Navy

Representational Image of Indian Navy

Representational Image of Indian Navy

Cdr (retd) Sumati Balooni, one of the petitioners in the case, said the apex court's "landmark" judgement will help bring change in the mindset within the Navy.

Elated after the landmark Supreme Court order granting permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Navy, former naval officers who waged the legal battle said on Tuesday that the next feat for them would to be see a woman command a warship and serve in submarines.

Cdr (retd) Sumati Balooni, one of the petitioners in the case, said the apex court's "landmark" judgement will help bring change in the mindset within the Navy.

"Now that the first step has been taken, the next feat would be to see women officers commanding a ship and serving in submarines in near future. If women can command a spaceship then they can also command a ship," said Balooni, who had joined the Navy in 1993.

For Balooni and other petitioners, it has been a legal battle that they waged for more than a decade.

Cdr (retd) Prasanna E has mixed feelings about the judgement.

Prasanna, who had joined the Air Traffic Control branch of the Indian Navy, said their legal struggle was not for equal rights for women alone but also for retaining the talent in the niche aviation sector.

"The fight was not for me alone. I wanted to serve in the Navy again but the judgement has given hope for prospective women officers who will not hesitate to join the armed forces as they can now see a secured future," she said recalling her legal struggle that involved travelling from Bengaluru, where she is currently based, to Delhi for court hearings.

"The judgement will also benefit serving officers within the Indian Navy," she added.

The two officers had retired before 2008 when the Navy came up with permanent commission for women in certain branches.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi quashed the prospective effect of the Centre's controversial September 2008 policy, which restricted the grant of permanent commission to certain categories only.

"The stipulation in the policy letter dated September 6, 2008, making it prospective and restricting its application to specified cadres/branches of the Indian Navy shall not be enforced," the top court said, while setting aside the implementation guidelines issued on December 3, 2008.

"The statutory bar on the engagement or enrolment of women in the Indian Navy has been lifted to the extent envisaged in the notifications issued by the Union Government on October 9, 1991 and November 6, 1998 under Section 9(2) of the Navy Act of 1957," it held.

The order comes less than a month after the Supreme Court ordered the Army to open permanent commission for women.

first published:March 17, 2020, 21:17 IST