The Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) has ordered the ministry of defence (MoD) to grant permanent commission (PC) to its women air force officers who had joined the service as short service commission (SSC) officers but were not absorbed in the force despite a policy permitting it.
According to the women officers on whose petition the tribunal ordered PC, the air force abruptly discontinued permanent commission for its officers (both male and female) in 2003 when the first batch of women officers were due for a PC.
Upholding the petition, the tribunal said on “deeper scrutiny” the 2003 policy did “not stand the test of fairness” and “smacked of malafide.” The AFT held the state’s power to withdraw the policy cannot be questioned unless it is shown to be arbitrary. But in the present case, it added, the process “was discontinued only with intent to deny the petitioners their right for permanent commission.”
“We are unable to understand as to what prompted the respondents (government) to suddenly stop granting permanent commission to both male and female officers when, admittedly, it was being granted till the first batch of women officers became available,” read the AFT order.
It concluded that the government “deliberately” stopped granting permanent commission to female officers by taking a unilateral decision.
Senior advocate Rekha Palli, who argued for the women officers, told HT: “A policy issued in 1991 stated that permanent commission will be granted to both male and female officers. The petitioners joined the force with the hope to get permanently absorbed.”