A woman army officer today received a shot in the arm with the Supreme Court dismissing the Centre's petition challenging a direction of the Armed Forces Tribunal to consider her case for permanent commission, even though she refused to appear in the requisite exam.
A Bench of justices J M Panchal and S S Nijjar declined to interfere with the Tribunal's November 10 order asking the government to consider Major Leena Gurav's plea for permanent commission status to facilitate her promotion from the rank of major to lieutenant colonel.
Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium assailed the tribunal's order as being erroneous on the ground that the apex court in its August 2, 2010 order held that women officers could be granted permanent commission provided they cleared the departmental exam.
He submitted that despite the apex court's direction, the tribunal had on November 10 asked the Government to consider her case for permanent commission even though Leena refused to appear for the exam.
Gurav's counsel Rekha Palli, however, countered the argument saying Leena was not required to appear for the exam as she had already put in 14 years of service and cleared her "promotion exam."
She submitted that only those who had put in just three-four years of service were required to appear. The Bench after hearing the arguments dismissed the Centre's plea. Gurav is currently serving at the Army's Judge Advocate General (JAG) wing in Lucknow.
On August 2, serving women army officers won their first round of legal battle after the government assured the Supreme Court that it will be consider giving them permanent commission in legal and educational branches.
The government had given an undertaking that women serving officers of Short Service Commission will be considered for permanent commission in the JAG and educational branches of army within two months. In all there are 2,200 women officers including 1,200 in army, 750 in air force and 250 in navy, according to Defence Ministry figures.
The apex court had asked the government to file an additional affidavit elaborating the nature of duty assigned to the officers getting permanent commission.
According to the government, permanent commission is given only in air force as the women officers are not asked to be in a combat position. Currently, women are inducted in the army as officers under SSC for a maximum period of 14 years whereas their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.
The apex court had also asked the army to furnish records to show that male officers who are given permanent commission after the SSC are sent for battle training.
The army had earlier moved the apex court challenging Delhi High Court judgement directing the armed forces to grant permanent commission to women serving in the armed forces. Sixty serving and retired women officers from Army and Air Force had earlier moved the high court which had said they should be treated equally with male officers.