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Supreme Court directs Centre to grant Permanent Commission to female Coast Guard officer

The Supreme Court on Monday came down heavily on the Central government for not granting permanent commission to women officers on the lines of the Army, Navy and the Air Force.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra rejected the argument of the Union Government that there were functional differences in the Indian Coast Guard because of which women officers cannot be given permanent commission.

Appearing for the Union of India, Attorney General R. Venkataramani submitted that a short affidavit would be submitted to highlight how the ICG was functionally different from the Navy and Armed Forces.

The Apex Court intervened to express that it may be completely different, but the Centre must have women in ICG.

It then directed the Centre that either the Union government granted the permanent commission to women, or the Apex Court would be compelled to do the same.

The Bench made the observations on a petition filed by a woman Short Service Appointment (SSA) Officer with the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) seeking permanent commission.

The AG said that a board has been constituted to relook into the modalities as there might be a need for some ‘structural’ changes.

However, the Apex Court said that the argument of ‘functional differences’ cannot be accepted in modern times.

The top law officer contended that once the Central government had filed it’s submission, the Bench would be better able to appreciate the aspect of the differences in functionality of the ICG as compared to other branches of Defence Services.

The Bench had earlier pulled up the Union of India over the denial of Permanent Commission for women officers in the Indian Coast Guard (ICG).

Noting that no woman had been inducted after 2009, the Apex Court pulled up the Union government for its ‘patriarchal’ approach.

Appearing for the Union of India, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Vikramjit Banerjee submitted that there was a difference between the stream of the petitioner, who was in the Short Service Commission (SSC) and the branch of Permanent Commission (PC), which she sought to be absorbed into. The issue was the transition sought from SSC to PC.

The Bench then asked what was so distinctive about the ICG that women could not have Permanent Commission there, while the Indian Navy granted the same.

Noting that the Apex Court will now ensure that justice was done to the women in ICG, the Bench directed the Centre to take instructions and come up with a gender-neutral policy soon, adding that it was about time to show ‘Nari Shakti’ in the ICG.

It asserted that if women can guard the borders, they can guard the Coasts as well.

The petitioner was represented by Senior Advocate Archana Pathak Dave and Advocate-on-Record Siddhant Sharma.

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