NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Monday termed as "gender discrimination" the Indian Army's practice of having only women in its nursing service.
"It is gender discrimination, only other way round," a bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V K Rao observed after it was informed that male nurses were not recruited into the Army's nursing branch.
The court gave the Centre two months time to take a decision on the issue and listed the matter for hearing on January 21, 2019.
The central government's lawyer sought six months time to take a decision on recruiting male nurses saying that each Army base has to be communicated and their views to be taken.
Denying the request, the court said, "We are in a digital world. Get everyone on video conferencing and take a decision".
The Centre also placed before the court an August 2018 office order to convene a board of officers to study the feasibility of the proposal to induct male nurses in the Indian Military Nursing Service.
According to the office order, the board proceedings are to be completed and a report submitted by October 31.
The court was hearing a society's PIL alleging "blatant discrimination" in recruitment for the Indian Military Nursing Service.
In its plea, the Indian Professional Nurses Association has said that there were several thousand males trained and qualified as professional nurses in India and their omission from nursing corps of the Army was "unjustifiable and unconstitutional inasmuch it deprives them of an avenue of employment and professional advancement".
"The said omission also deprives the military and the nation of a large pool of committed professionals," the petition, filed through advocates Amit George and Rishabh Dheer, said.
The PIL has challenged the provisions of the Military Nursing Service Ordinance 1943 and the Military Nursing Service (India) Rules 1944, to the extent they provide only for appointment of women.
It has also contended that the Ordinance and the Rules "also perpetuate the stigmatisation and ostracism of male nurses, by singling them out and making them feel unwanted".
It has said that such discrimination is contrary to the constitutional scheme and is, therefore, "ex-facie unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary".
The petition has sought quashing of the words "if a woman" in the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance and to place male nurses at par with their female counterparts.
The court had earlier termed the practice of recruiting only female nurses as "antiquated" and "stereotyped".