The Supreme Court’s proactive role on the entry of women officers in permanent commission in Indian Army seems to have paid off, before the one-month deadline given to the Centre by the court got over.
As per an agency report quoting an Indian Army spokesperson, the Army seems to have sent our orders that will grant of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) women officers in all ten streams of the Indian Army, in addition to the existing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).
The top court’s bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph had, earlier this month, given the Centre one month time to implement its order of granting Permanent Commission to all women army officers under the Short Service Commission (SSC) in the army.
The order had come after the bench heard an application filed by the Ministry of Defence asking for six months time for implementation the apex court’s February order.
According to the news agency, the army spokesperson will empower women officers, who will be able to take up larger roles in the Army. The report said that their selection board will be scheduled as soon as all affected SSC women officers exercise their option and complete requisite documentation.
The defence ministry’s application for extension off time was on the grounds that the Coronavirus pandemic had affected administrative functioning, with offices closed during lockdown. That made it difficult to implement the apex court’s order, the application had said. The application had said that only the final orders remained to be issued.
The court maintained that an absolute bar in command appointments doesn’t favour the right of equality and is outright discriminatory. The court had further observed that if stereotypes regarding men being the bread earners, being stronger than women, etc continue then such thinking will never go away. The court had directed the necessary steps to be taken in 3 months to execute this judgment from the date it was pronounced.
The apex court had refused Centre’s argument that women can be given only staff appointments. Justice Chandrachud said: “It is an insult to women as well as the Army when aspersions are cast on women, their ability and their achievements in the army. The arguments as given on behalf of the government are cluttered with gender stereotypes.”
The Centre had also submitted a note before the court, enumerating its reasons for not extending the choice of permanent commission to women officers. “Composition of rank and file being male, predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept WOs (women officers) in command of units,” said the note.
“Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards and hence the physical capacity of WOs (women officers) in the IA remain a challenge for command of units,” the note said, adding that officers are expected to lead their men ‘from the front’ and need to be in prime physical condition to undertake combat tasks.
To this, the court had said “administrative will” and “change of mindset” are required on the issue of giving command posts to women officers in the Army.
The judgment had also referred to examples of women officers such as Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, Divya Ajit Kumar, IAF officer Gunjan Saxena etc, who have received gallantry awards for their bravery during combat operations as a response to arguments on physical weaknesses of women and them being unsuitable for being in the position of a command officer.
-India Legal Bureau