The Principal Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), New Delhi, has ruled that the Indian Air Force (IAF) cannot have two yardsticks in granting permanent commission to women officers.
It implied that the Human Resource Policy dated August 2, 2011, which raised the qualitative requirement of ACR to 7 from 6.5 was not applicable to those women officers who were allowed permanent commission through the Delhi high Court judgment of March 12, 2010.
The high court judgment has been applicable to all those women officers who joined prior to May 2006, and thereafter 23 women officers were granted permanent commission.
In case of other women officers, the permanent commission was offered only when a contempt application was disposed of on May 23, 2010. But instead of granting permanent commission as per the then existing HR policy of 2010, a new policy was brought in.
Squadron Leader Sunita Sighadia, currently posted at Chandigarh-based 12 Wing air force station, has challenged the new HR policy of August 2011.
The bench comprising Justice Sunil Hali and Air Marshal JN Burma (retd) observed, “The aforesaid policy of 2011 was made applicable to the officers who had already been commissioned prior to August 2, 2011. The question that calls for consideration is as to whether it violates equality clause as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution. It is trite that law forbids classification…”
The judgment said, “…It is not in dispute that the state has sovereign right of laying down the policy for grant of permanent commission to all Short Service Commission (SSC) officers. It also has the sole domain to lay down the qualitative requirements to assess the merit of the officers who are required to be absorbed permanently. The courts have no right to determine as to what should be the policy and qualitative requirements for granting permanent commission. However, the court is required to see whether a uniform policy has been adopted for all those who are similarly situated. The respondents cannot adopt two different yardsticks/criteria for purposes of granting permanent commission to its officers. It has to adopt a uniform policy…”
The HR policy
Squadron Leader Sunita Sighadia, posted at Chandigarh’s 12 Wing station, has challenged the new HR policy of August 2011. The policy raised the qualitative requirement of ACR to 7 from 6.5. It was made applicable to the officers who had already been commissioned prior to August 2, 2011.