‘Can’t mandate perverse equality’: SC on plea over commission for women
The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned the Army for denying permanent commission to women short service commission (SSC) officers by requiring them to have the same medical standards at the age of 45 years as their male counterparts, who became entitled at a younger age.
Calling for a “change in mindsets”, the top court had last year directed that women officers of the Indian Army, serving under SSC, be considered for grant of Permanent Commission, irrespective of tenure of service, and also for command posts in non-combat areas since “an absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14”.
Referring to a petition filed by nearly 60 women officers, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said: “You cannot mandate perverse equality by asking women officers at the age of 45 years to fulfil conditions that applied to male officers at the age of 25 years.”
The medical fitness team of the Army tested close to 615 women SSC officers entitled for permanent commission, following the apex court judgment, on five counts: psychiatry, height, appendage (bone structure), physical and eye and ear.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, who appeared for the petitioners, said some women were eliminated on the basis of their poor annual confidential reports (ACR). For permanent commission, this report is assessed between the 5th to 10th year of service.
The petitioners also told the court that the Section Board of the Army appeared to have turned into a “Rejection Board” as only 277 out of 615 women Army officers made it to the final list. “For service performance, you (Army) say we will look at your performance between 5th to 10th year but for medical criteria, you will require to be as medically fit as a male officer when he was appointed,” the bench said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain said he will reply to these arguments on Tuesday when the matter will be next heard.