New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Indian Army to grant permanent commission to women within three months, rejecting the stereotypes that only women are responsible for domestic duties.
Pulling up the Centre for not complying with the High Court as well as Supreme Court orders, the court said all terms of appointments of women officers shall be same as their male counterparts.
“Women officers shall be entitled to all consequential benefits. These will include those who have even retired,” the SC held.
The court noted that there was no ground to deny women officers permanent commission even if they have completed 14 years. “SSC women officers less than 14 as well as beyond 14 years of service will be granted permanent commission,” the SC ruled.
“Time has come for a realisation that women are not adjuncts to male counterparts whose presence has to be just tolerated,” the court said.
Citing the examples of Captain Tanya Shergill and Captain Madhumita, the SC also spoke about women officers who are convoy commanders in Leh and Udhamnagar among other places.
“To cast aspersions on women based on gender is in fact an affront to the entire army where men and women are equal. To deny grant of permanent commission on these stereotypes represent deeply entrenched biases. True equality in army must be brought,” the court said.
In a note to the court, the government had pointed out several issues, including "physical prowess" and "physiological limitations", as challenges for women officers to meet the exigencies of service in Army.
"Composition of rank and file being male, predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept WOs (women officers) in command of units," said the note.
"Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards and hence the physical capacity of WOs (women officers) in the IA remain a challenge for command of units," the note said, adding that officers are expected to lead their men 'from the front' and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
On the issue raised in the written note about a situation where a women soldier or officer may become a 'prisoner of war', the bench said earlier there were other services in addition to direct combat operations where women officers may serve.
"It would be a situation of extreme physical, mental and psychological stress for the individual, the organisation and above all the government. Therefore, such a situation is best avoided by keeping the WOs away from direct combat," the Centre has said in the written note.
In its note, the Centre said the country has two unsettled borders and Armymen are mostly deployed in isolated and detached posts in difficult terrain and adverse climatic conditions.
"The lines of communications are extended and the internal security situation in the north-east and J&K puts severe limitations on the functioning of units in these areas. These conditions have a major bearing in the employment of WOs in light of their physiological limitations accentuated by the challenges of confinement, motherhood and child-care," it said.
In its written note, the Centre has said that women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commissions and further career progression in staff appointments only.
It said that women officers above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without consideration for permanent commission and would be released with pensionary benefits subject to meeting disciplinary and medical criteria.
The note said that women officers having over 20 years of service would be released with pensionary benefits.