The Supreme Court has now granted a permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Navy. The bench by Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi said that there cannot be 101 excuses for not granting gender equality in the armed force and it emphasized that women officers should be treated equally. The Indian Navy is striving towards creating a level-playing field for both the genders to ensure equal and justified participation, reported Hindustan Times. A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till he/she retires unlike SSC, which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.

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The bench has directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to women officers serving Short Service Commission (SSC) in the Navy within three months with increments. The Centre had not been granting sea ailing duties to SSC women officers on the grounds of the lack of washrooms in the Russian vessels. This stand has been turned down by the Supreme Court, saying that women can sail as well as male officers and thus there is no place for discrimination. It added, the denial of permanent commission to SSC women who have selflessly been devoting their lives to the nation would be a “serious miscarriage of justice”.

“There are enough documentary evidence to suggest women officers in Navy brought accolades to the force,” the bench said. Moreover, the court stated, “Once the statutory bar was lifted to allow entry of women officers, then male and female officers are to be treated equally in the granting of permanent commission.”

A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy till he/she retires unlike SSC, which is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.

As a result of the decisions, the women officers who’ve retired and will retire in the future will also be able to avail pension benefits. The apex court order has come out after the Union Government filed an appeal against September 2015 Delhi High Court judgment. The Centre had decided in September 2008 to grant permanent commission to women officers which was to be applied prospectively to women SSC officers, thus excluding the serving women officers from this entitlement. The HC had held that the exclusion of serving women officers from the granting of the permanent commission was irrational and arbitrary.

It was in February this year, that the Supreme Court ruled the mandatory consideration of women SSC officers in the Indian Army for the permanent commission. This was irrespective of them completing the 14 years of service.

“To cast aspersions on the ability of women and their role and achievements in the Army is an insult not only to women but also to the Indian Army,” the bench said. The decision comes as an attempt to bridge the gender gap that is prevalent in Indian armed forces. This would not only motivate the existing officers to keep working harder but will also be able to attract more women in the forces.

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Saavriti is an intern with SheThePeople.TV

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