Lies discarded by court, says Meenakshi Lekhi who fought for women officers in SC
The petitioners in the case demanding equal rights for women officers in the Indian Army, have welcomed the Supreme Court verdict favouring permanent commission for women.
“It’s a progressive judgement, we want to celebrate. I just want to say congratulations to everybody,” said Lieutenant Colonel Seema Singh, one of the petitioners.
The lawyer of the petitioners, BJP leader Meenakshi Lekhi, said that Army authorities had misled the court. “All those misleading statements were rejected by the court today. Now women will get equal rights in the Army like men. The judgement has paved way for women officers to hold command posts,” said Lekhi.
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed the Centre’s submission against a 2010 Delhi high court order which had approved permanent commission for women officers. The court said that the submissions made by the Centre were “perpetuates sex stereotypes”. “Arguments by the Centre founded on physical strength of men and women and grounds of motherhood, family etc violates equality,” said the two-judge bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi.
“To cast aspersions on ability of women and their role and achievements in Army is an insult not only to women but also to Indian Army,” the bench said.
The Centre submitted a written note in the apex court earlier this month, containing the proposal of the government, that pointed out to several issues, including “physical prowess” and “physiological limitations” as challenges for women officers to meet the exigencies of service in the Army.
“…the profession of arms is not only a profession but a way of life which often requires sacrifices, commitment beyond the call of duty by the entire family of service personnel involving separation, frequent transfers affecting education of children and career prospects of spouse. As a consequence, it is a greater challenge for women officers to meet the hazards of service owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families especially when both husband and wife happen to be service officers”, the Centre’s note stated.
It also added that it is best to keep woman away from direct combat since capture of a woman officer or soldier as a prisoner of war would lead to a situation of extreme mental, physical and psychological stress for the captured individual and the government.
The central government had put forward a proposal as per which short-service commissioned (SSC) women officers with up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commission; women with more than 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without consideration for permanent commission and then released subject to pensionary benefits; and women above 20 years of service would be released with pensionary benefits immediately upon the completion of the case in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held today that Centre’s policy to restrict permanent commission to SSC women officers with less than 14 years of service was violative of right to equality. The court said that permanent commission should be granted to women officers regardless of their service, and told the government to do so within three months. “Now all women officers will benefit from this order,” said Lekhi.
The women officers who had moved petition against the Centre’s decision had pointed out that this notification did not grant permanent commission to women with over 14 years of service and was hence discriminatory. Moreover, the 2019 policy granted permanent commission only for staff appointments and not command appointments.