NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday observed that structures of our society have been created "by males and for males" and adjustments, both in thought and letter, are necessary to rebuild them for an equal society.
"It is not enough to proudly state that women officers are allowed to serve the nation in the Armed Forces, when the true picture of their service conditions tells a different story. A superficial sense of equality is not in the true spirit of the Constitution and attempts to make equality only symbolic," said a bench, comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah.
The top court made these observations in the 137-page verdict in which it said that evaluation criteria set by the Army for granting permanent commission (PC) to women SSC officers constituted "systemic discrimination" which has caused economic and psychological harm and an "affront to their dignity".
The bench noted that at the time of independence, the Constitution sought to achieve a transformation in society by envisaging equal opportunity in public employment and gender equality and since then, we have continuously endeavoured to achieve the guarantee of equality enshrined in the Constitution.
"We must recognize here that the structures of our society have been created by males and for males. As a result, certain structures that may seem to be the 'norm' and may appear to be harmless, are a reflection of the insidious patriarchal system," it said.
"Presently, adjustments, both in thought and letter, are necessary to rebuild the structures of an equal society. These adjustments and amendments however, are not concessions being granted to a set of persons, but instead are the wrongs being remedied to obliterate years of suppression of opportunities that should have been granted to women," it said.
The bench said that the authorities must remove the requirement of benchmarking the women SSC officers (WSSCOs) with the last male officer who had received PC in their corresponding batches and all WSSCOs meeting the 60 per cent cut-off must be granted PC.
"In light of the systemic discrimination that women have faced in the Army over a period of time, to call for the adoption of a pattern of evaluation that accounts and compensates for this harsh reality is not to ask for 'special and unjustified treatment'. Rather, it is the only pathway for the attainment of substantive equality," it said.
The apex court said that administrative requirement imposed by the Army authorities while considering the case of women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers for grant of PC, of benchmarking them with the officers lowest in merit in the corresponding male batch, is "arbitrary and irrational".
The judgement was delivered on a batch of pleas filed by 86 petitioners questioning the manner in which the last year verdict of the apex court has been implemented.
In its landmark judgement delivered on February 17 last year, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted PC, rejecting the Centre's stand of their physiological limitations as being based on "sex stereotypes" and "gender discrimination against women".
It had directed that within three months, all serving SSC women officers have to be considered for grant of PC irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.