Time for women officers to rejoice. In a historic judgement the Supreme Court has ordered the Centre to ensure that women officers are given permanent commission (PC) in the army. It also added that the officers will now be eligible for command posting.

This is what SC said:

  • It mentioned that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the army in service.
  • This will be irrespective of their years of service.
  • The Supreme Court also asked the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the army who opt for it.
  • The Apex Court said that this has to be done within three months.
  • The SC added that all terms of appointments of women officers shall be same as their male counterparts.

Centre had earlier said that women officers shouldn’t be granted permanent commission. This was because of the difference in men’s and women’s physiological features. The Supreme Court, however, said that this mindset promoted gender stereotypes. It also said that such opposition is disturbing and can’t be accepted.

“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 Supreme Court noted.

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“Centre, by not giving permanent commission to women officers, had prejudiced the case,” the SC noted.

Reasons for opposing commission

The centre, on the other hand, had given various reasons for not letting women in permanent commission.

It said that the troops were not mentally prepared to accept women officers in command. The prevailing societal norms won’t let them do so.  It also said that they had their reservations in overexposing women officers to combat situations. Further citing “challenges of confinement, motherhood and childcare” as an impediment.

Positive development last year

Last year, the defence ministry announced that women officers will now be granted a permanent commission (PC) in all 10 branches of the Indian Army. These branches are Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence. SSC women officers will give their option for PC before completion of four years of Commissioned Service. They will exercise an option for grant of PC and their choice of specialisation. The two streams of the army where women already had the option of PC are Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Education Corps.

Air Marshal Anil Chopra, former head of personnel Indian Air Force, told SheThePeople, “As the former HR head of IAF, I was delighted to read the hon’ble Supreme Court’s landmark judgment, upholding Delhi High Court’s 2010 judgment of granting permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army. It struck down the government arguments of physiological limitations and social norms to deny opportunity to women officers. It is disturbing and cannot be accepted as women officers have performed exceptionally well and brought laurels, stated the top court. “Women in the Army is an evolutionary process,” said Justice DY Chandrachud. SC directed the government to grant permanent commission to women officers who have already worked as short service commission officers in the Indian Army, as it would go a long way in eradicating gender stereotypes prevalent in society. The issue of women in combat units was not before the court. It would mean permanent service commission for women already in short service commission in non combat support units such as education, law and logistics etc. Interestingly the IAF, which is most progressive on this count, has women in all branches including fighter pilots and has cleared PC for women in all branches.

According to 2019 figures, women comprise only 3.8% in Indian Army, compared to 13% in the IAF, and 6% of Indian Navy. There are some 1,500 female officers compared to more than 40,000 male officers.
The next logical evolving step unfolding is the entry of women in National Defence Academy, and to induct women in other ranks at Jawan level.”

Picture Credit: Live Law

Also: Male Troops Won’t Accept Female Commanders, Centre Tells SC

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