Women can join and serve in the Territorial Army (TA), in its railway engineer regiments, and will also be considered for honorary commissions, the Centre told the Delhi high court.
The government made the submission in an affidavit before a bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, which is hearing a PIL seeking recruitment of women in the TA, which is the second line of defence after the regular army.
The bench will hear the matter on September 22.
The TA is an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency.
The Centre said there is no discrimination in the selection procedure, eligibility criteria and terms of service of women candidates or officers in the TA.
“The women officers in TA have been promoted to the rank of brigadier, which is the highest rank applicable to TA officers,” the affidavit said.
With regard to its 2015 recruitment advertisement, which invited application from only gainfully employed men and not women, the affidavit said the advertisement was for grant of commission in infantry units of the TA.
It also said the recruitment of men in infantry units of the TA was a policy decision in accordance with the Territorial Army Act and the policy can be amended only if the law was amended.
With regard to the honorary commissions given to some politicians, celebrities and sportspersons, the government said such people receive no financial benefit nor do they perform any military duties or command troops. Instead, they act as “brand ambassadors” of the army to motivate the youth to join the armed forces.
This provision was initially applicable to only men, but the TA Directorate decided to amend the policy and as on date, both men and women can be considered for grant of honorary commissions, the affidavit said.
The government has sought dismissal of the PIL, filed by law student Kush Kalra, saying his contention that women were not being allowed to join the TA was incorrect.
In his reply to the government’s affidavit, Kalra said, “In the prospectus, which is obtained under RTI by the petitioner, on page 9 and 10 the Eminent Personalities of Territorial Army are provided and there is no mention of any female in the list, which on the face puts down the claim of respondents that women can join Territorial Army.
“In every advertisement for recruitment to Territorial Army, the Directorate of Territorial Army has mentioned that ‘Only Male Citizens of India’ can apply for the post of officer in Territorial Army,” he has said.
In his plea, filed through advocate Jyotika Kalra, the law student has alleged “institutionalised discrimination” by the TA on the ground that women were allegedly not recruited into the organisation.
Unlike the Indian armed forces, the TA is not a profession, occupation or a source of employment and is meant for those who are already in mainstay civilian professions. Gainful employment or self-employment in a civil profession is a pre-requisite for joining the TA, the petition has said.
The role of the TA, in which actor Mohanlal and cricketers Kapil Dev and MS Dhoni are honorary members with senior ranks, is to “relieve the regular army from static duties and assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities...,” it said.
It also helps in maintenance of essential services in situations where life is affected or the security of the country is threatened, the PIL has said.