Permanent commission to women: Implement order instead of seeking clarifications, says SC to govt
- In its March 25 ruling, the Indian Army was directed to positively grant permanent commission to all WSSCOs who obtained 60% marks in their assessment subject to their meeting the medical criteria prescribed by the army’s August 1 2020 order and receiving disciplinary and vigilance clearance.
The Supreme Court on Monday refused to entertain requests for clarification on the grant of permanent commission to women short service commission officers (WSSCO) and said that any clarification on its March 25 judgment should be addressed to the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).
“As judges, we get fed up with miscellaneous applications (MA). There are human limitations on us. We have laid down the law for a broad class of individuals. How can we entertain individual cases of officers?” the bench of justices Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and MR Shah said. Before the judges were two sets of applications filed by the Centre and women officers seeking clarifications on the implementation of the Supreme Court’s March 25 verdict.
In its March 25 ruling, the Indian Army was directed to positively grant permanent commission to all WSSCOs who obtained 60% marks in their assessment subject to their meeting the medical criteria prescribed by the army’s August 1 2020 order and receiving disciplinary and vigilance clearance. The court gave the government three months to complete this exercise.
The Centre’s application asked whether permanent commission should be granted to WSSCOs who obtained the benchmark 60% marks as laid down by the court but were found “unfit” on discipline or vigilance grounds by a selection board that considered their case in September 2020.
The army said that out of 529 WSSCOs who opted for permanent commission, 514 fulfilled the 60% grade criteria.
But 72 of the 514 women officers were ineligible for grant of PC under the two army policies of September 30, 1983 and February 24, 2012, that require WSSCOs to be “fit” and secure at least 60% marks and wanted the court to spell out if it meant permanent commissions had to be granted irrespective of the criteria being met.
“Government should not have filed this application. We do not want to encourage this. Everything was argued before us and now we won’t entertain it,” the bench said.
Women short service commission officers who were denied permanent commission (PC) and face the prospect of being released from service next month were also before the court with a prayer to stay their release.
The bench asked them to approach the tribunal. “The Government has given benefits to a large mass of people (among WSSCOs). By mistake, if the benefit may have been left out for some, for that the AFT is there.”
“What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. You have not yet gone to the tribunal,” the bench remarked, noting that some women officers have already approached the tribunal.
Senior advocates Huzefa Ahmadi and Meenakshi Arora, appearing for WSSCOs, agreed to the suggestion but sought a time-bound decision on their case. The bench disposed of their request, ordering that their petitions seeking “substantive and interim relief” shall be considered expeditiously by the tribunal.
The Centre’s application contained other prayers too including a two-month extension to implement the order.
It also sought to expunge remarks of “systemic discrimination” made against the army with regard to the annual confidential report (ACR) assessment and career progression of WSSCOs. The direction requiring the army to reconstitute the same selection board which originally considered the batch mates of the affected WSSCOs was also sought to be modified.
Appearing for the Centre, additional solicitor general (ASG) Balbir Singh and senior advocate R Balasubramanian said it will be better for the top court to clarify these aspects to avoid multiplicity of proceedings.
The bench responded: “You must implement the judgment as it stands. There is an attempt on part of your client (Centre) to go around our judgment.”