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SC directs Centre to grant permanent commission to women army officers in landmark verdict ending gender bias

The top court noted that it is indefensible to deny permanent commission to women and the blanket ban on command posting cannot be sustained in law.

Published: 17th February 2020 11:50 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th February 2020 08:37 AM   |  A+A-

Women Army Officers in jubilant mood after the landmark judgement to grant permanent Commission to women in the Army. (Photo | EPS/Shekhar Yadav)

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Shattering another glass ceiling, the Supreme Court on Monday directed the grant of permanent commission to all women officers in the 10 non-combat wings in the Army, adding they would be eligible for command posts too irrespective of their years of service.

Emphasising on the right to equality, a bench comprising justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said, “Men are dominant and women are primary caretakers - this deeply entrenched stereotype needs to go away. There is need for change in mindsets to bring about true equality in the Army, including the command positions.”

The onus for implementing the order lies on the Military Secretary’s branch, which is responsible for the cadre management of all officers. It will not just analyse the performances and postings of the women officers but also now include the eligible ones for command positions in the selection boards.  
The bench struck down part of the Centre’s February 2019 circular that had proposed permanent commission to women officers in a few wings if they had not completed 14 years in service. It also reminded the authorities of the orders of Delhi High Court in 2010 and its interim order the following year while criticising them for not complying with the directives to grant permanent commission to women officers in the last 10 years.

Women officers will get all the consequential benefits, the bench added. It includes a go ahead for command positions. For those women who retired as they were denied permanent commission, the court ordered the grant of full pensionary benefits.

Henceforth, service conditions of men and women officers will be exactly the same and specialisations have been made gender neutral. For command assignments, the top court said there can’t be absolute exclusion of women officers and that they should be considered by the authorities on a case by case basis.
The court, therefore, struck down that part of the 2019 circular that talked about employment of women officers only in staff positions.

“There is no ground to deny women officers the permanent commission even if they have completed 14 years. Short Service Commission (SSC) officers who have less than 14 years in service as well as those beyond 14 years will be granted the permanent commission,” the bench held.

It cited Captain Tania Shergill, who was the face of the Army in the Republic Day parade this year, and several other women officers who were decorated with Seva Medals and VSMs to state that women officers have brought many laurels to the nation.

What next

Military Secretary’s branch will do cadre management of women officers, evaluate performance and decide on postings

Training institutions and courses for command positions will be opened up for women officers. The Army to check if the available infrastructure needs to be updated

Doors now open for women officers include a senior command course. Before that, they would be eligible for admission to Defence Service Staff College besides taking Technical Staff Officers Course



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