SC extends deadline to give women permanent posting
The Centre on Tuesday received one month to implement the Supreme Court’s path-breaking decision to grant a permanent commission to women Army officers serving under the Short Service Commission (SSC).
An order by the top court passed on February 17 had ended the gender disparity that stood in the way of women SSC officers being denied a permanent commission their male counterparts were entitled to. The Centre agreed to grant a permanent commission to women in 10 non-combat streams and was directed by the apex court to complete the process in three months.
The deadline expired in May. The extension ordered by the court will be valid for a month starting on Tuesday.
Citing the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, the Centre moved an application before the Supreme Court to extend the deadline expiring in May by six months. Senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the ministry of defence, told a bench comprising justices DY Chandrachud and Indu Malhotra that the government was is in an advanced stage of implementing the court’s order. The process couldn’t be completed because of the lockdown that caused all government offices to be close abruptly, the lawyer said.
“On account of lack of staff, closure of hospitals, including Army hospital and non-availability of other requirements necessary to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court, it was very difficult to continue with the process of consideration of women officers for grant of permanent commission…..In view of the corona pandemic and the ensuing lockdown coupled with exigencies of service, the applicant has not been able to complete the same and requires more time to complete the entire process,” the Centre said in its petition.
The women SSC officers were represented in the virtual court proceeding by their lawyers Meenakshi Lekhi and Meenakshi Arora. Opposing the application, the counsel argued that an attempt is being made by Centre to dilute the Supreme Court judgment to delay its implementation.
The bench took note of the fact that the Centre had commenced efforts to implement the court order and could not foresee the lockdown due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Recording this submission in its order, the bench said, “We extend the time for compliance by one more month.”
The court kept the matter pending in order to pursue implementation of its direction.
Under the Supreme Court’s February order, women SSC officers who are serving and who had approached the court but retired during the pendency of proceedings were eligible for a permanent commission. It was in 2006 that the Army extended SSC to women recruits allowing them a short stint of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years, to work with the army’s non-combat streams.
In 2010, the Delhi high court, ruling on a batch of petitions filed by women SSC officers, directed Centre to grant them a permanent commission. Challenging this order, the Centre approached the apex court.