Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 7
The Supreme Court on Tuesday gave one more month to the Centre to implement its February 17, 2020 verdict for permanent commission to women officers in the Army.
A Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud asked the government to ensure complete compliance with its order even as the Ministry of Defence said the decision making was at the final stage and only the formal order remained to be issued.
The top court's orders will be complied with in letter and spirit, the government told the court, which agreed to give one additional month in view of COVID-19 pandemic.
The Centre had sought six more months to implement the top court's order for grant of permanent Commission to women officers and make provision for command posts for eligible women officers in the Army.
Noting that “the right to equality is a right to rationality,” the Supreme Court had on February 17 paved the way for women in command positions in the Army as it ordered the Government to consider granting permanent commission to all women officers in three months.
“An absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14. Implicit in the guarantee of equality is that where the action of the state does differentiate between two classes of persons, it does not differentiate them in an unreasonable or irrational manner. In this sense, even at its bare minimum, the right to equality is a right to rationality,” a Justice Chandrachud-led Bench had said.
The Bench, however, had said, “Whether a particular candidate should or should not be granted a criteria or command assignment is a matter for the competent authority to consider having regard to all the exigencies of service, performance and organisational requirements.”
Noting that courts were conscious of the limitations, which issues of national security and policy imposed on the judicial evolution of doctrine in matters relating to the Armed forces, the Bench had made it clear that deployment of women officers in combat roles was a matter of policy as held by the Delhi High Court.
The top court said permanent commission can be given to women officers in the Army irrespective of their tenure of service. It also directed the Centre to grant permanent commission within three months to all women officers in the Army who opt for it.
It had termed as "disturbing" the government's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying command posts to women officers and called for a change of mindset on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in the armed forces.
Highlighting the laurels achieved by women officers, the Bench had said, “Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.”
It had expressed strong displeasure over the Centre not implementing the 2010 Delhi High Court’s order allowing grant of permanent commission to women officers despite there being no stay on it, saying the government showed scant regard in implementing the directions for a decade.
Describing the engagement of women officers in the Army as an “evolutionary process” it had said the Centre should have implemented the high court verdict as there was no stay on it.
The top court's order was based on the Centre’s policy decision conveyed to it on February 25, 2019 to grant of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission women officers in all the 10 streams where women had been granted SSC in the Army.
“The decision of the Union Government to extend the grant of PC to other corps in the support arms and services recognizes that the physiological features of a woman have no significance to her equal entitlements under the Constitution,” it had said.
“Seventy years after the birth of a post-colonial independent state, there is still a need for change in attitudes and mindsets to recognise the commitment to the values of the Constitution," it had said.
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