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Supreme Court refuses Centre plea to postpone women entry into NDA, INA to next year

The learned ASG, Aishwarya Bhati requests the top court to allow the female candidates to take the exam next year and not this session. She sought that exams should be taken in 2022 and skipping the exam scheduled to be held on November 14, from women admission.

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to accept the Centre’s request to allow eligible female candidates to appear for the National Defence Academy and the Naval Academy Examination from next year, stating “After we have given hope, we don’t want to deny it”.

A Division Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai passed the order on a petition filed by Kush Kalra. Senior Counsel Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, appearing on behalf of the petitioner, submitted that two exams are held by NDA during a year for admissions to the next year. So, allowing women to take only the 2022 exams will mean that their admissions to NDA will take place in 2023.

Justice Kaul replied that the absorption or intake cannot be postponed by an year in the armed forces. 

ASG Aishwarya Bhati requested the top court to allow the female candidates to take the exam next year and not this session. She sought that exams should be taken in 2022 and skipping the exam scheduled to be held on November 14, from women admission.

“My learned colleague is not reading the affidavit correctly, so if the court permits, I may read it. It is not delay by a year. It is not delay for the second exam of 2022. We are having it for the exam of 2022. Study group has been set up,”

-the ASG submitted.

Armed forces best suited to deal with emergencies: SC

The bench stated that Interim orders have been passed and armed forces are best suited to deal with emergencies. The court opined that the armed forces will not be incapable of accommodating the students who take the exam this year.

Justice Kaul said that he has closely read the affidavit filed by the Ministry and has fully understood the difficulties expressed by them.

“It has to be from this session only. We find it difficult to postpone everything by a year,” it added.

The court suggested that instead of skipping the exam, the government should try to work out something for them.

“What answer would we have for the students who are on the anvil of taking the exam? Don’t ask us to effectively vacate the order. You go on with the exercise. Let us see the result and see how many women get it,”

-observed the Court.

We’ll be in a tight situation: ASG

The ASG replied in a sense of worry, “We will be in a tight situation.”

“The armed forces of the country have been in far greater situations than a tight situation such as this. It would be difficult for us to accept the submissions of the Centre in view of the aspirations of the candidates willing to take the exam. Armed forces have seen far emergent situations, both at border and in the country. We are sure such training will come handy here,”

-Justice Kaul replied.

After hearing the parties at length, the court asked, “When is the Exam is to be held and when are the results expected?”

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Senior Counsel Chinmoy Pradip Sharma replied that the exam is on November 14 and results will take two months respectively.

UPSC Counsel Naresh Kaushik told the bench that the authority is awaiting certain instructions from the Defence Ministry.

Mohit Paul, Advocate on Record in the matter, submitted that UPSC is yet to issue the corrigendum notification.

“Needful will be done by the Defence department, in collaboration with the UPSC. We will give a little leeway to the Defence department to give some tentative requirements subject to finalization of same by expert committee,” said Justice Kaul.

“An affidavit has been filed by the armed services. Some of the areas which need to be addressed, have been set out in the affidavit. Things are stated to be preferably in actions for induction of women in NDA. Suffice to say, the affidavit refers to the medical, fitness, strength, curriculum, proposed training standards, requirements to the infrastructure, accommodations,  all these aspects are expected to in interests by a study group which is been constituted by the Defence services consisting of experts who expeditiously formulate the comprehensive system for the women candidates appearing for NDA.

Chinmoy submitted that NDA exams are held twice a year and this would amount to postponing the whole aspect by one year, argued by the ASG who submits that effectively what is being submitted is that the present exam scheduled in November 21, permitted to be skipped so far for the induction of women candidates are concerned and with the next exam to be held in the recruitment made, the whole process would be completed.

“We have given a thought to the matter and to the difficulties expressed by the armed services. What effectively would mean by the submissions of the armed services is a principle, ‘No Jam today, Jam tomorrow’. 

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“It would be difficult for us to accept such a position, the aspirations of the women for this having the reasons. In view of the orders we have passed, the armed services are prepared for the very difficult situations for the border and for the country; to deal with emergencies is part of their training. We assure that they would effectively pave a way through it. This involves larger general extraditions and cannot be postponed. We would thus not like to effectively vacate the order already passed by us, but keep the matter open for any further directions, depending on the positions which may emerge, after the exam is held,”

-added the Bench.

The court opined that the matter will not be disposed and kept it pending for third week of January, “to see if any issue arises”.

In a momentous decision for gender equality, the Supreme Court had earlier issued interim directions, allowing women to sit for the entrance examination to the National Defence Academy and the Naval Academy Examination to be conducted by the Union Public Service Commission on September 5. It was directed that the admission would be subject to the final order and the Court listed the matter for next hearing on September 8.  

In the PIL filed at the behest of Kush Kalra, the issue is that of violation of the Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 of the Constitution which deny the opportunity to eligible and willing female candidates to join the National Defence Academy. In a nutshell the issue is of gender discrimination. 

Earlier, the Bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian issued notice in this matter on 10.03.2021. The petitioner seeks appropriate steps to allow eligible female candidates to appear for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination conducted by the UPSC and trains them at the National Defence Academy.

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The opportunity to eligible and willing female candidates to join the National Defence Academy and afford them a chance to enroll, train and develop themselves in the National Defence Academy into future leaders of the Indian Armed Forces, thereby, categorically excluding eligible and willing female candidates to choose joining the Armed Forces as a profession after completing 10+2 education and denying them a chance to train at the premier Indian joint training institute and centre of excellence for the Armed Forces was denied to the female candidates. 

The main grounds raised by the petitioner were that there was a violation of fundamental rights to equality, protection from discrimination by the State on the ground of sex, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and discrimination by the state on the ground of sex in respect of any employment or office under the state, and the right to practice any profession. 

Thus, it was successfully contended that the systematic categorical exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates to appear for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination and gain entry into the National Defence Academy is a violation of fundamental rights.

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