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Wednesday, Dec 11, 2019

Permanent commission for women in Army: SC raps govt for leaving out those who led fight

india Updated: Nov 19, 2019 23:57 IST
Hindustantimes
         

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday flagged deep concerns about the Indian Army’s move to grant permanent commission to only those women officers who join the force under the Short Service Commission programme after March 2019, when the government notified its decision to offer permanent jobs to its women officers in 10 branches of the Army.

A bench led by justice DY Chandrachud made it clear to the Centre’s counsel that it did not welcome the prospective implementation of the notification, leaving out a number of women, who for over a decade are fighting in the courts to get absorbed in the Indian Army as permanent commission officers, claiming parity with their male counterparts.

“We are giving you an opportunity. We can pass an order but we are giving u an opportunity to take credit for it. These are women in service of the nation. If you give them permanent commission, just think what message you will send to the world,” justice Chandrachud told additional solicitor general Sanjay Jain, asking him to come back with a positive response on November 28.

The top court is hearing an appeal filed by the Centre against the Delhi High Court’s March 2010 verdict directing the armed forces to give women army officers on SSC permanent commission. The top court did not stay the order while issuing notice to the women officers who approached the HC.

As the matter remains undecided, the petitioners continue to be in service as SSC officers. Some of them have been in job for almost 20 years, while SSC term for women (for men as well) ends in 14 years.

The government in March 2019 agreed to grant permanent commission in 10 branches of Army – Judge Advocate General, Army Education Corps, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence.

Under the new system, SSC women officers will be required to indicate if they want a permanent commission within four years of service. Before this notification, women were given permanent commission in only two streams - Judge Advocate General and Army Education Corps. Male short service commissioned officers, on the other hand, are given the option to opt for permanent commission before the end of 10 years of service.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also backed the idea of permanent commission for women and announced the change in policy in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort during his Independence Day speech in 2018.

Senior advocate Aishwarya Bhatti, appearing for the women officers lawyers, pointed that the Indian Army has offered to grant permanent commission to women officers prospectively, from April 2020. The notification allowing permanent job to women in 10 branches excludes women who fought against gender bias in the forces, she said.

The Indian Air Force opened all branches including fighter pilots for women officers, according to the Ministry of Defence’s March 2019 notification. In the navy, all non-sea going branches and specialisations were opened for the induction of women officers through Short Service Commission. Women SSC officers have been made eligible for permanent commission in the Naval Armament branch at par with male officers, the notification added.