'Absolute exclusion of women from command in Army is illegal': Supreme Court dismisses Centre appeals against Delhi HC verdict

  • Absolute exclusion of women from command appointments in the Indian Army is against Article 14 and unjustified, the Supreme Court said in a judgement

  • The court also directed that a Permanent Commission be granted to women officers irrespective of the years of service, except in combat roles

  • Justice Chandrachud slammed the Centre’s written submissions, adding that reasons such as physiological differences and domestic obligations cited for denying command appointments to women

Absolute exclusion of women from command appointments in the Indian Army is against Article 14 and unjustified, the Supreme Court said in a judgment on Monday, calling denying permanent commission based on years of service “a travesty of justice”. It also directed that a Permanent Commission be granted to women officers irrespective of the years of service, except in combat roles.

The judgment was passed in the plea filed by women officers and was being heard by a Supreme Court bench, comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi. The petition concerned the denial of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers in the armed forces. The Centre has filed appeals against a 2010 judgment of the Delhi High Court. The judgment had held that Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Air Force and the Army, who had applied for Permanent Commission (PC) but were only given extension commensurate to the SSC level, are entitled to PC on par with male Short Service Commissioned officers with all consequential benefits.

 Absolute exclusion of women from command in Army is illegal: Supreme Court dismisses Centre appeals against Delhi HC verdict

A woman officer leads a contingent during the Republic Day parade. PTI

Calling the induction of women in the army an “evolutionary process”, the bench upheld the 2010 Delhi HC order and dismissing the Centre’s appeals against it, the Supreme Court Bench said, "It is an insult to women as well as the army when aspersions are cast on women, their ability and their achievements in the army.”

Further, Chandrachud slammed the Centre’s written submissions, adding that reasons such as physiological differences and domestic obligations cited for denying command appointments to women perpetuate gender stereotypes. “To deny grant of PC on these stereotypes represent deeply entrenched biases. 30 percent of women are actually deployed in combat areas. True equality in army must be brought,” Chandrachud said.

Another reason mentioned by the Centre’s attorney was the reluctance of male troops predominantly from rural background to accept women in command. “Society holds a strong belief in gender roles that men are physically stronger and women are weak and submissive. It is a flawed notion that women are the weaker sex,” the Bench observed.

The court also said that the deployment of women on command assignments will be considered on case-to-case basis, adding that all terms of appointments of women officers in the army shall be same as their male counterparts. It added women officers, including those who have retired, shall be entitled to all consequential benefits as per the order.

Written submissions by women officers countered the Centre’s arguments about the aforementioned reasons for denying command appointments. Submissions referred to examples of women officers like Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, Divya Ajit Kumar and IAF officer Gunjan Saxena who received gallantry awards for displaying courage during combat. The court had earlier reserved orders in the case on 5 February.

On 25 February last year, the Centre had taken a policy decision to grant Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission Women Officers in eight streams of Indian Army - Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronic and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence), in addition to the existing two streams of Judge Advocate General and Army Educational Core (AEC). The policy, however, did not apply, to Short Service Commissioned women officers with service above 20 years. The policy thus was challenged for denying equal benefits to all classes of Short Service Commission Women Officers.

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Updated Date: Feb 17, 2020 13:49:44 IST


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