No violation of rights in denying women admission to NDA: Centre to SC

Published on Aug 18, 2021 10:43 AM IST

The response by the Centre came on a petition filed by lawyer Kush Kalra who is seeking equal opportunity for women at par with men to get admission at the prestigious Pune-based National Defence Academy (NDA) and Kerala-based Indian Naval Academy (INA)

The Supreme Court. (HT archive)
The Supreme Court. (HT archive)
ByAbraham Thomas

Women cannot claim violation of any fundamental right for being denied entry at the National Defence Academy or the Indian Naval Academy, the Centre told the Supreme Court on Tuesday as the male cadets trained there do not have any automatic advantage in future career advancement prospects over the women whose only route to enter the Army is by recruitment through short service commission.

The response by the Centre came on a petition filed by lawyer Kush Kalra who is seeking equal opportunity for women at par with men to get admission at the prestigious Pune-based National Defence Academy (NDA) and Kerala-based Indian Naval Academy (INA). Presently, both these academies do not recruit women cadets.

With the matter coming up for hearing on Wednesday before a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy, the Centre said, “Women are being granted equal opportunity in the armed forces in the avenues that have been opened up for employment of women. There is no violation of any fundamental right merely on account of the mode of entries available to men and women to join the armed forces.”

The NDA is only one of the various modes of entries for recruitment in the Indian Armed Forces, the affidavit said, pointing out that in the Army, on an average 1,470 officers are commissioned which includes 670 officers from Indian Military Academy (IMA) and NDA apart from Officers Training Academy (OTA) where both men and women officers are commissioned through UPSC and non-UPSC modes.

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Apart from this, on an average, 453 officers (men and women) are commissioned as Short Service Commissioned officers through SSC (Non-Technical) and SSC (Technical) through UPSC.

The court had issued notice on the petition in March this year. Kalra said, “Eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take the said examination (of NDA and Naval Academy) on the sole ground of their sex…and this act of discrimination is a dishonour committed by the respondents to the Constitutional values of equality (Article 14) and non-discrimination (Article 15) in the Constitution of India.” Besides, the petition even alleged violation of Article 16 (equal opportunities in matters of public employment) and Article 19 (freedom to practice profession).

The affidavit said, “Training at the NDA does not give any automatic advantage to male cadets over their counterparts from other training establishments / institutions. It has no bearing on the future career advancement prospects.” It suggested that choice of training at any equivalent training academy cannot be a violation amounting to discrimination based on gender under Article 14, 15, 16 or 19 of the Constitution.

Referring to the Supreme Court judgment of February 2020 allowing women short service commission officers equal opportunities as male counterparts for getting permanent commission in 10 army branches, the affidavit said, “The issue of discrimination against women in the recruitment policies of the Indian Army, has attained finality and nothing survives….There is no denial of right or opportunity to women who desire to become officers in the Indian Army and who fulfil the necessary requirements and are found suitable.”

As regards navy, the affidavit pointed out that Navy consists of four branches -- executive, electrical, engineering and education and as on date, the bar has been lifted to allow entry of women in all the branches. As on date, it said, the executive branch has not been opened for recruitment of women. Every year, about 600 officers join the navy out of which only about 120 to 160 officers join through the UPSC examination while close to 480 officers join through other modes of entry, the affidavit added.

In addition to Kalra’s petition, the court is also considering a petition filed by Kailas Udhavrao More seeking admission of girls into the century-old Rashtriya Indian Military College at Dehradun from this academic year. This college is run solely for boys by the ministry of defence. The Centre is yet to respond to this petition.

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