Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 22
The Supreme Court on Wednesday turned down the Centre's request to postpone till May next year the entry of women into the National Defence Academy (NDA) - hitherto open to men alone.
"No, it has to be from this session only. We find it difficult to postpone everything by a year. After we have given a hope (to women aspirants) we don't want to deny the hope," a Bench led by Justice SK Kaul told Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati.
The Bench refused to modify its August 18 interim order allowing women candidates to appear for the NDA and the Naval Academy Examinations and to train at NDA.
The top court's firm "no" came in response to Bhati's request to allow female candidates to take the NDA exam in May next year and not this session for which exams are scheduled to be held on November 14. She said a study group has been set up to make recommendations in this regard.
However, the Bench said the examination had already been scheduled and interim orders passed.
"Armed Forces are best suited to deal with emergencies...I don't think they will not be capable of accommodating the students who take the exam this year," it said.
"Instead of skipping the exam try to work out something for them..What answer would we have for the (women) candidates who are on the anvil of taking the exam. Don’t ask us to effectively vacate the order. You go on with the exercise. Let's see the result and see how many women get there," the Bench said.
As Bhati said, "We will be in a tight situation," the Bench shot back, "The Armed Forces of the country have been in far greater situations than a tight situation such as this one. It would be difficult for us to accept the submissions of the Centre in view of the aspirations of the candidates willing to take the exam...The Armed Forces have seen far more emergent situations both at border and in country. We are sure such training will come handy here."
The Bench posted the matter for the third week of January 2022, saying, "We will keep the plea pending here so that directions can be sought as situations arise."
Noting that the numbers may be smaller this time, it asked the Centre to make necessary arrangements.
The UPSC counsel said it was waiting for directions from the Ministry of Defence and would do the needful once it got the instructions.
Earlier, the Centre had told the top court that women cadets’ entry into the NDA wasn't possible this year as various facilities had to be developed for them before they were allowed into the academy.
In an affidavit filed in the top court, the Ministry of Defence had said a notification allowing women candidates to take the entrance exam for entry into the NDA would be released in May 2022.
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