Women Army case: Absolute exclusion from Command Postings for Women in Army violates article 14: SC dismissed centre appeals against Delhi HC verdict
The Supreme Court has upheld the 2010 ruling of the Delhi High Court which had held that Women Short Service Commission officers are entitled to Permanent Commission on par with their male counterparts. Further, the Bench has also directed the Central Government to implement the ruling within three months time.
Following the 2010 ruling, it was only in 2019 that the Centre issued a policy that extended Permanent Commission to women officers in 8 stream(Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronic and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Coprts, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence), in addition to existing 2 streams of Judge Advocate General and Army Educational Core (AEC).
The Court also held that absolute exclusion of women from command assignments is against Article 14 of the Constitution and unjustified. Centre’s argument that women can be given only staff appointments is unenforceable.
“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 Court observed.
This is in the case Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya and others, in which a SC bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi had reserved orders on February 5. The bench observed that these arguments perpetuate “gender stereotypes”.
The Court added that change of mindset is required on part of government to put to end gender discrimination in armed force.
This policy is however not extended to SSCWOs who have service above 20 years. Women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commission and further career progression in accordance with this policy. Also, those above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve till 20 years without PC and those past 20-year 20-year service would be released with pensionary benefits.
This classification made in the policy is being challenged as arbitrary and unreasonable, in so far as it denies equal benefits to all classes of SSCWOs.
“This proposal of the Union of India smacks off arbitrariness & hostile discrimination qua the Women Officers who have pioneered the battle for grant of Permanent Commission to Women Officers and have been pursuing their remedies before the Hon’ble Court since 2003, when the lead Writ Petition No.1597/2003 was filed before the Hon’ble High Court”, argued the women officers.
The Supreme Court said that the absolute bar on granting command posts to women officers in the Army is irrational and against the Right to Equality.