‘Insult to Women’: SC Raps Govt Stance on Women Army Officers

Upholding HC judgment, SC says Centre obligated to provide permanent commission to women officers in Army.

Updated17 Feb 2020, 08:45 PM IST
India
3 min read

Video Producer: Rupsha Bhadra
Video Editor: Mohd Irshad Alam

The Supreme Court on Monday, 17 February directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months and said there will not be any absolute bar on giving them command postings.

A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud rejected the Centre’s argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them permanent commission and command postings, saying it is disturbing and against the concept of equality. The judges rapped the government’s arguments for perpetuating sexist stereotypes and being an “insult to women”. 

The bench said women officers in the past have brought laurels to the country and change of mindset is required on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in the 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 the past decade.

While reading out the order, Justice Chandrachud said “Women in the Army is an evolutionary process.”

‘Physical Prowess, Physiological Limitations’

In a note to the court, the government had pointed out several issues, including "physical prowess" and "physiological limitations", as challenges for women officers to meet the exigencies of service in Army.

The court on Monday said that the contentions of the Centre, regarding the issue of physiological limitations and social norms to deny an opportunity to women officers is disturbing and can't be accepted.

The court also said the Centre, by not giving permanent commission to women officers, had prejudiced the case.

A written note by the government to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 4 February, had said that "troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units" in the Army.

"Composition of rank and file being male, predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept WOs (women officers) in command of units," said the note.

The note said that the physiological differences between men and women preclude physical performances resulting in a lower physical capacity for women officers.

To this, the court said "administrative will" and "change of mindset" are required on the issue of giving command posts to women officers in the Army.

In its written note, the Centre had said that women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commissions and further career progression in staff appointments only.

Women officers above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without consideration for permanent commission and would be released with pensionary benefits subject to meeting disciplinary and medical criteria.

‘Befitting Reply to Prejudiced Modi Govt’

Meanwhile, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday claimed that the BJP government disrespected women by arguing in Supreme Court that women Army officers did not deserve command posts or permanent service because they were inferior to men.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said the historic judgment of the Supreme Court has given new wings to the flight of women in the country.

“Women are capable, in the Army, in valor, in water, land and sky. This is a befitting reply to the prejudiced Modi government, which is opposed to women’s power.”
Priyanka Gandhi

Rajnath Singh Welcomes Verdict

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh welcomed the verdict, noting that PM Narendra Modi has supported the idea of permanent commission for women and announced the change in policy in his Independence Day speech in 2018.

In a series of tweets, Singh went on to praise the decision.

Judgment Will Uplift Women Across Country Not Just in Army: Officers

"The sky is virtually the limit," said advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, who appeared for the women officers. She said the judgment has given women officers the same rights as their male counterparts, according to PTI.

Accompanied by her women colleagues, one officer said the SC ruling will help uplift women across the country and not just the armed forces.

Whoever qualifies for the job should be given the opportunity to command, she said.

"Commanding cannot be done right away. It needs training. So give them training and whoever fits the benchmark, should be given the opportunity. As per the Supreme Court ruling, the order will be applied on all serving women officers," the officer said, according to PTI.

(With inputs from PTI and News18)

Liked this story? We'll send you more. Subscribe to The Quint's newsletter and get selected stories delivered to your inbox every day. Click to get started.

The Quint is available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, click to join.

Published: 17 Feb 2020, 05:19 AM IST
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!