10-11% women in army is practical and operationally viable: Centre to Supreme Court | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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10-11% women in army is practical and operationally viable: Centre to Supreme Court

ByAbraham Thomas
Jul 20, 2022 12:17 AM IST

A representation of 10-11% of women in the Indian Army is practical and operationally viable, the Union government told the Supreme Court even as the army said a review over the next five years will decide the feasibility of inducting more women officers to ensure gender neutrality within the force

New Delhi: A representation of 10-11% of women in the Indian Army is practical and operationally viable, the Union government told the Supreme Court on Tuesday even as the army said a review over the next five years will decide the feasibility of inducting more women officers to ensure gender neutrality within the force.

The Supreme Court in March granted Centre time till July to deliberate on the rationale behind the allotted vacancy of 10 women candidates per course (with two recruitment cycles in a year) and submit the findings of the study undertaken (Archive)
The Supreme Court in March granted Centre time till July to deliberate on the rationale behind the allotted vacancy of 10 women candidates per course (with two recruitment cycles in a year) and submit the findings of the study undertaken (Archive)

The Centre’s response in the form of an affidavit came as the Supreme Court was examining a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Delhi-based advocate Kush Kalra, demanding equal opportunity for women for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA), Dehradun-based Rashtriya Indian Military College, and Sainik Schools.

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“A representation of approximately 10-11% of women in arms or services where they are being currently commissioned is a practical and operationally viable ratio,” the ministry of defence told the court in the affidavit filed on Monday.

After the apex court in September last year allowed entry of women cadets into NDA — considered a male bastion since its commissioning in 1954 — the army told the court that regular entry of up to 20 women cadets a year can be allowed only 90 women can be inducted in the 10 arms or services of the army each year, with 20 joining from NDA and the remaining 70 through the short service women officers from the Officers Training Academy.

The court in March this year granted Centre time till July to deliberate on the rationale behind the allotted vacancy of 10 women candidates per course (with two recruitment cycles in a year) and submit the findings of the study undertaken.

The affidavit, a copy of which HT has seen, stated that the annual intake of officers in army is approximately 1,200, of which 552 get commissioned into the 10 arms or services in the force. Out of the 10 arms, six fall under combat services that have to be exclusively manned by male officers. Every year, 372 vacancies are earmarked for male officers in every batch. “This leaves only 180 vacancies (the balance in 552 after 372 vacancies taken by men) per year in the 10 arms/services for manning the units. Up to 90 women (50% of 180 vacancies) can be inducted in these 10 arms/services per year,” the affidavit stated.

Since regular entry of 20 women candidates per year through NDA has been approved by army, the rest of women officers are taken through the short service commission route and they can aspire to be permanent commission. The affidavit said this figure of 70 “may be increased to 80” bringing overall strength of women officers to 100 per year.

After going through the affidavit, a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh posted the matter for hearing on September 6. In the meantime, the bench allowed the petitioner’s lawyers — senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma and Mohit Paul — to file their response to the affidavit before the next date.

The affidavit filed by Captain Shantanu Sharma, posted as director with the ministry of defence said that a study for “Holistic Appraisal of Induction and Employment of Women Officers in the Indian Army” was commissioned by the chief of army staff on March 10 which factored in the future possibility of inducting women in army.

“With a view to accommodate even more women officers, the Indian Army is examining a further increase in the number of women officers based on functional capacities of the 10 arms/services without compromise on operational efficiency,” the Centre told the court. However, it added that the above decision will be based on the assessment of various functional issues analysed over a period of time for which a “review will be undertaken in the next four to five years”.

The study compared gender representation in Indian Army vis-à-vis Western armies and found that Indian army faces challenges of harsh terrain, strategic security scenario, counter insurgency and counter-terrorism challenges. Western armies on the other hand have secured borders and are largely expeditionary forces with virtually “zero internal security challenges”.

“The army will constantly review the intake based on environmental feedback on increase in the women officer cadre and will take further steps to ensure gender neutrality without impacting overall operational effectiveness,” the affidavit said.

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