Representational Image. Image Courtesy: DNA India
New Delhi: In a major rap on the knuckles to the Centre on its stance against the concept of gender equality, the Supreme Court on Monday directed it to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months.
In a landmark ruling, a bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said there could not be not be any absolute exclusion of women in command postings, except in combat roles, and rejected the Centre's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying such postings to women, saying it was “disturbing” and against the “concept of equality”.
Citing the laurels brought by women Army officers to the country, the bench said a change of mindset was required on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in armed forces.
The top court said despite there being no stay on the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict allowing grant of permanent commission to women officers, the Centre showed scant regard in implementing the directive in past one decade.
The top-most court also held that denying women command postings was against Article 14 of the Constitution and was “unjustified. The Centre's argument that women can be given only staff appointments is unenforceable, the bench said, according to a report in Live Law.
“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, as per the Live Law report.
Slamming the Centre for perpetuating “gender stereotypes,” the apex court also pulled up the Centre for delaying grant of permanent commission on par with male officers, in line with a 2010 ruling to that effect by the Delhi High Court, as per a Bar & Bench report.
The Supreme Court bench also clarified that its Monday ruling was applicable to all women officers currently in service in the Indian Army.
According to Bar & Bench, the apex court observed that society held a strong belief in gender roles wherein men were considered physically stronger while women are weak and submissive, adding that this was a “flawed notion.”
The Court also said that it was, therefore, indefensible to deny permanent commission to women in the Army, adding that any blanket ban on command posting for women officers also could not be sustained under law.
According to Bar & Bench, the landmark Supreme Court judgement on an appeal filed by the Centre before it, “challenging a March 2010 Delhi High Court judgment, which held, inter alia, that Short Service Commissioned Women Officers (SSCWOs) of the Army are entitled to Permanent Commission at par with Gentlemen SSCOs with all consequential benefits.”
After the Delhi High Court’s 2010 judgment, the Centre had issued a notification in February 2019 granting Permanent Commission to SSCWOs in eight streams -- signals, engineers, Army aviation, Army air defence, electronics and mechanicals engineers, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Intelligence -- in addition to the existing two streams of JAG & AEC.
The case became controversial after the Centre submitted a written note to the SC citing reasons for not granting permanent commission for women officers on par with men, citing reasons such as “certain male troops may not be ready to accept women in commanding positions as well as the physiological differences between men and women,” the report said
“Following this, women officers impleaded as respondents in the matter had also countered the points made by the Centre opposing the grant of permanent commission on par with male officers,” the report said.
(with inputs from PTI)