‘Do it or we will order’: SC to Centre on women in army

New Delhi, November 19: The Supreme Court on Tuesday told the army to take a decision on permanent commission to eight women army officers who had approached the top court in 2010 against the bar on their absorption in the armed forces. Over the next nine years, the government finally agreed to grant permanent commission but this decision left out the women who had first approached the court
“We can pass an order but we are giving you an opportunity to take credit for it,” a bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud told the army after being told that a decision had been taken to grant permanent commission to women officers in the army’s 10 branches where women are inducted for short service commission, or SSC.
At Tuesday’s hearing, the Supreme Court was also told about reports that this facility would only kick in for women officers from April 2020.
Aishwarya Bhatti, the lawyer for the women officers, told the top court that this meant that the decision to grant permanent commission prospectively would not cover the women who fought gender bias in the forces.
The bench told the Centre’s law officer Sanjay Jain to come back with a positive response by next Thursday. Jain had earlier sought time on the ground that he had been recently assigned this case.
Under the new system, SSC women officers would be required to indicate if they want a permanent commission within four years of service.
The Indian Air Force has already opened all branches including fighter pilots for women officers. In the navy, all non-sea going branches and specialisation had been opened for induction of women officers through Short Service Commission. Women SSC officers have been made eligible for grant of permanent commission in the Naval Armament branch at par with the male officers.
The Delhi High Court had ordered the armed forces to give women officers on SSC a permanent commission in March 2010. The army was the only one of the three services to appeal against this decision in the Supreme Court.
Before the high court verdict, women officers retired after 14 years and had no scope of extension while their male counterparts were eligible to receive it after five years.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also backed the idea of permanent commission for women and announced the change in policy in his address to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort last year. (Courtesy: HT)