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News18 » India
3-min read

Women Get Permanent Commission in Army as SC Calls Govt's Claims on Marital Status, Pregnancy Disturbing

For command assignments, the top court said there can't be absolute exclusion of women officers and that they should be considered by the authorities on a case by case basis.

Utkarsh Anand | CNN-News18

Updated:February 17, 2020, 4:24 PM IST
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Women Get Permanent Commission in Army as SC Calls Govt's Claims on Marital Status, Pregnancy Disturbing
Captain Tania Shergill, the first woman parade adjutant for the Republic Day parade, during the rehearsal. (PTI File)

New Delhi: Men are dominant and women are primary caretakers, this deeply entrenched stereotype needs to go away, said the Supreme Court on Monday as it ordered for granting permanent commission to all women officers in the Indian Army in all 10 non-combat wings.

Bringing down the glass ceiling, a bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud struck down a part of the Centre's February 2019 circular that had proposed permanent commission to women officers if they had not completed 14 years in service.

The bench reminded the authorities of the orders of Delhi High Court in 2010 and its interim order the next year as it reproached them for not complying with the directives to grant permanent commission to women officers in the last 10 years.

“Scant respect has been shown to the orders of the court," said the SC as it quashed what it called as an "artificial distinction" to deny benefits to women officers who had already completed 14 years in service.

The court directed the government to give permanent commission to all the serving women officers who have completed 14 years of service and to also give pensionary benefits to those who have been retired on account of not being granted the benefits.

The women officers will also get all the consequential benefits, added the bench.

It ordered that henceforth, service conditions of men and women officers will be exactly the same and that the latter shall also be provided with choices of specialisations like their male counterparts.

For command assignments, the top court said there can't be absolute exclusion of women officers and that they should be considered by the authorities on a case by case basis.

The court, therefore, struck down that part of the 2019 circular which talked about employment of women officers only in "staff" positions.

"There is no ground to deny women officers the permanent commission even if they have completed 14 years. Short Service Commission (SSC) officers who have less than 14 years in service as well as those beyond 14 years will be granted the permanent commission," held the bench.

The apex court also expressed its anguish on certain submissions made by the government regarding the physiological conditions of the women officers, their pregnancy, marital status as well as the fact that they have to look after their homes.

The court cited Captain Tania Shergill, who was the face of the Indian Army in the Republic Day parade this year, and several other women officers who were decorated with Seva Medals and VSMs to state that women officers have brought many laurels to the nation.

“To cast aspersions on women based on gender is, in fact, an affront to the entire army where men and women serve as equals. It is deeply disturbing to deny grant of permanent commission to the women officers based on the stereotypes and deeply entrenched biases," said the bench, pointing out almost 30 per cent of women officers are currently deployed in combat areas.

Equality of opportunity to all citizens, gender justice will guide engagement of women in the army, held the top court as it trashed the stereotype that only women are responsible for domestic duties.

Calling for a change in attitude and mindset, the court added that the army must show the spirit of true equality.

“A time has come for a realisation women are not adjuncts to male counterparts whose presence has to be just tolerated," noted the bench as it said that the 2019 decision of the government to give permanent commission to women in 10 wings has been a step in the right direction.

However, the bench said this policy decision was partly unjust when it sought to differentiate between officers who had completed 14 years and those who were yet to do so.

The top court put all these women officers on par and ordered the government to abide with its directions in letter and spirit.

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