The Central government recently informed the Delhi High Court that the bar on married males or females from being considered for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department, the legal arm of the Indian Army, is a reasonable restriction placed in public interest and national security.
The Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma is seized of a plea challenging the prohibition on the basis of marital status for grant of Short Service Commission in the Indian Army to the department of JAG.
In an additional affidavit filed by the Centre in the matter, it was stated that the embargo for grant of commission is “restricted only for the period of recruitment and pre-commissioned training which involves a high amount of physical and mental stress, strain and rigours of military training” and that the same is in the interest of the candidates as well as the organization.
It was explained that once the training, which lasts for minimum one year, is complete and the cadets are granted commission, there is no bar for getting married or its natural consequences of pregnancy and several service benefits.
The bench granted time to the petitioner to file response to the Centre’s stand and slated it for further hearing on July 17, 2023.
The instant petition was filed by Advocate Charuwali Khanna on behalf of practising Advocate and activist Kush Kalra challenging the “institutionalized discrimination” in restricting married individuals from being considered for JAG.
JAG Officers are legal and judicial chief of the Army and provide legal help in matters related to military, martial and international law.
Kalra, in the petition, has questioned the basis for the alleged restriction, when marital status is not an eligibility criteria for ‘equally ranked’ Judiciary and Indian Civil Services posts. While asserting that the policy curtails the civilian’s right to marry after attaining the legal age, the plea prayed for declaring as void the Special Army Instructions of 1992 and 2017 which disentitled married men and married women for seeking employment in the JAG Department of the Indian Army.
An earlier petition filed by Kalra in 2016 challenged the ineligibility of married female candidates to apply for JAG, while there was no such restriction on married male candidates, on the ground that the same is discriminatory to female candidates.
However, during the pendency of that petition, a fresh corrigendum was issued by the government in 2017, wherein married men were also barred from seeking employment in JAG. The petition was thereafter withdrawn with a liberty to raise the challenge afresh.
On the last date of hearing, the bench had asked the Centre to explain the rationale behind the policy pertaining to entry for training for recruitment in the legal arm of Indian Army.