Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 17
Noting that “the right to equality is a right to rationality”, the Supreme Court on Monday 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 Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud said.
The Bench, however, 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 exigencies of service, performance and organisational requirements.”
Women officers’ counsel Meenakshi Lekhi welcomed the verdict, saying, the judgment has given women officers the same rights as their male counterparts.
There are 1,653 women officers in the Army, 3.89 per cent of the total number of officers in the Army.
The Bench 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.The top court 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.
Today’s order is based on the Centre’s policy decision conveyed to the court on February 25, 2019, to grant of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission women officers in all 10 streams where women have 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 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,” the court said.
- All serving women SSC officers to be considered for grant of permanent commission (PC)
- Women SSC officers with over 14 years of service who do not opt for being considered for grant of PC will be entitled to continue in service until they attain 20 years of pensionable service
- As a one-time measure, benefit of continuing in service until attainment of pensionable service shall also apply to all existing SSC officers with over 14 years of service who are not appointed on PC
- SSC women officers with over 20 years of service who are not granted PC shall retire on pension in terms of the policy decision
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