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Supreme Court rebukes Centre for not increasing seats for women in NDA

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The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the Central government over the number of women candidates to be inducted in 2022 through the first annual entrance test for National Defence Academy (NDA).

The bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M.M. Sundresh reprimanded the Centre for not increasing the seats of women candidates from 19, which was fixed in 2021, when the women candidates appeared for NDA examination for the first time.

In September 2021, the Apex Court had given green signal to women to take the NDA recruitment test. It had also permitted the government to restrict the number of women inductees, after being told that the NDA lacked adequate infrastructure for women trainees. 

Thereafter, when the second NDA exam was conducted in November, women candidates took the test too. Of the 400 candidates who made it to the merit list, 19 were women. 

According to the UPSC exam notification issued on December 22, 2021, the first phase of NDA exam for 2022 is scheduled for April 10. The notification declared that even for 2022, only 19 women candidates will be chosen out of 400 successful ones.

Placing the December 2021 notification of the UPSC before the Apex Court, petitioner Kush Kalra said the intake of women candidates was restricted to 19 for the 2021 exam only because the court had given them a leeway, considering the academy was not adequately equipped to train them.

The restriction on the number of women candidates was suggested by the court as an emergency measure, Senior Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, representing the petitioner, told the bench. 

However, the UPSC notification was contrary to the Centre’s undertaking that NDA will be fully equipped, infrastructure-wise, to induct more women candidates, said Sharma, noting his reservations over the exam notice.

Taking note of these submissions, the bench sought a response from Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati and asked her to file an affidavit within three weeks. 

The document must explain why the induction of women for NDA has been fixed at 19 even in 2022.

It was on Kalra’s plea that the Supreme Court had in September ordered the government to permit women trainees to join the NDA.

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