Wahid Bhat | Ground Report
After a 17-year-long legal battle, the path has been cleared for women in the Army to get equal rights. The Supreme Court said in an important decision on Monday that all those women officers who want to opt for this option should be given a permanent commission in the army within three months. The court termed the Centre’s plea as citing physical abilities and social norms behind not giving women command posts.
After the decision of the Supreme Court, now women in the army have got equal rights with male officers. Till now only male soldiers who served in the Army for 14 years in the Short Service Commission (SSC) were getting the option of permanent commission, but women did not have this right. Women officers in the Air Force and Navy are getting permanent commission. The judgment was delivered by a bench of Justice DY Chandrachud.
Important decision of Supreme Court
Permanent Commission: All women officers under Short Service Commission will be entitled to permanent commission. The Supreme Court has said that women officers who have served less than 14 years and above under the Short Service Commission should be given the chance of permanent commission.
Combat Role: The Supreme Court has left the decision on the government and the army to give Combat Roll to women. The Supreme Court said, ‘Deployment of women in the combat roles (combat roles) directly involved in the war is a policy matter. The Delhi High Court also said the same. So the government will have to think about it.
Command posting: The Supreme Court has said, ‘It is absurd to completely ban women officers from not giving a command posting in the Army and is against the right to equal. Women should get the right to command posting. Command posting means posting leading a unit, corps or command.
Strict comments of Supreme Court
Unique decisions of the Center: The Supreme Court said, ‘The policy decisions of the Central Government regarding the deployment of women officers have been very unique. After the High Court’s decision, the Center should have given permanent commission to women in the army. The Center has shown bias by not giving permanent commission to women officers.
Disturbing argument: Due to physical limitations and social norms, the central argument of not giving permanent commission to women officers is disturbing. Such pleas cannot be accepted at all.
Need to change mindset: Women officers should be given permanent commission in Army. In the past, women officers have shown bravery for the country. Even after 70 years of the British era, the government needs to change the mindset to end gender discrimination in the armed forces.
Humiliation of women and army: Doubting not only the women but also the army will be a doubt on the abilities of women regarding achievements and roles in the army.
The Center did not pay heed to the verdict: In 2010, the Delhi High Court allowed a permanent commission for women officers. 2 September 2011 The Supreme Court also made it clear that the High Court’s decision will not be stayed. Despite this, the Center did not implement it for a decade and did not listen to the decisions of the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.
17 years ago i.e. in 2003, Babita Punia was the first woman lawyer who filed a petition in this case in Delhi High Court. After that, nine women officers filed separate petitions in the High Court till 2009 on the same issue. In 2010, the Delhi High Court ruled on these petitions and ordered permanent commission of women in the army. The High Court had said, “It is clarified that all those women officers who have not reached the age of retirement should be given permanent commission.” They should also be given benefits like promotions. We are not doing women any favors, we are giving them their constitutional rights. ”
Center made policy, but added clause of March 2019
years after the High Court’s decision, in February 2019, the government made a policy to give permanent commission to women officers in 10 departments of the army, but said that the service from March 2019 onwards. Only women officers coming in will get the benefit. In this way, those women were deprived of permanent commission, who fought a long legal battle on this issue. The Center had filed a petition in the Supreme Court, arguing that male soldiers would not be ready to take orders from female officers.
What will be changed?
If the permanent commission for women in the army gets the green signal, it will bring a historic change in the Indian Army. It means that when a woman is appointed to the army, then that female military officer will be able to work in the army till the age of retirement. However, if a woman officer would like to resign for some reason, she can resign. All women officers working in the army under the Short Service Commission will be given an option to choose a permanent commission. Even women officers will also be entitled to pension after getting a permanent commission.
Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme allows women officers into the Army for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years. However, women were restricted to specific responsibilities such as Corps of Engineers, Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals and Intelligence Corps. SSC scheme doesn’t allow women officers in combat roles like armoured corps and infantry.
In February 2019, the Government of India endorsed the permanent commission for women officers in 10 different roles of ‘Combat Support Arms’ and ‘Services’ sections. However, it was also mentioned in the policy statement that women officers will not be given any command appointments but they will serve in staff posts only.
What is Permanent Commission in Army?
Permanent Commission refers to a career till the age of retirement. It means an officer gets selected through the Permanent Commission and serve the nation up to the age of 60. An Army officer has to join the National Defence Academy (NDA), (Indian Military Academy) IMA or Officers Training Academy (OTA) for permanent commission.
Women are eligible for command post
The Center argued that ‘command post’ responsibility in the army cannot be given to women. Command post means to command and lead a legion. The court said that preventing women from coming on command posts is against equality. The court further said that depriving women of equal opportunity is unacceptable and disturbing.