Women Army Officers eligible for permanent commission

Team SoOLEGAL 18 Feb 2020 3:16pm

Women Army Officers eligible for permanent commission

NEW DELHI: Justice Chandrachud dismisses as ‘stereotype’’, the government’s view that women are physiologically weaker than men.

The Supreme Court dismissed the claims made by the Union government that women are physiologically weaker than men as a "sex stereotype" and declared that women officers of the Short Service Commission (SSC) are eligible for permanent commission and command positions in the Army regardless of their years of service.

Women officers of the Indian Army have brought laurels to the force. Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission. The time has come for a realization that women officers in the Army are not adjuncts to a male dominated establishment whose presence must be ‘tolerated’ within narrow confines,” a Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hemant Gupta observed in a 54-page judgment.

In 2010, the Delhi High Court had ordered the government to grant permanent commission to all officers of the short-service commission while upholding a policy decision to keep women out of the combat units. The government challenged this ruling in the SC and in the interim did not implement the ruling despite there being no stay on it. It must now enforce the policy in three months time.

The order punished the government for ratifying a note containing written submissions portraying women as physiologically unfit to respond to the Army's "call beyond duty." The note showed female officers in a poor light, saying isolation and hardships would eat into their resolve and they would have to heed the call of pregnancy, childbirth, and family. The note had indicated that women were running the risk of being kidnapped by enemies and taken prisoner of war.

Justice Chandrachud, who wrote the judgment, countered 30 percent of female officers in conflict zones. He said the note screamed at the age-old patriarchal notion that only women had domestic obligations.

The court flouted the government's mindset of dragging its feet on the question of granting women officers a permanent commission as at odds with its policy of taking steps “to eradicate the divide between men and women officers in as many streams as possible in an incremental manner”.
“If society holds strong beliefs about gender roles — that men are socially dominant, physically powerful and the breadwinners of the family and that women are weak and physically submissive, and primarily caretakers confined to a domestic atmosphere — it is unlikely that there would be a change in mindset,” the SC said.
There is an acute shortage of 11,500 Army officers, out of which about 5,115 officers are deficient in support services in which women officers were commissioned in response to a question posed in the Lok Sabha on 16 August 2010.

Despite the deficiency of officers in support services, the Army is letting go of trained women officers due to gender discrimination and not granting permanent commissions to women officers,” the SC said.

The court held that the rule of law cannot withstand a total ban on women SSC officers from command posts. “An absolute prohibition of women SSC officers to obtain anything but staff appointments do not fulfill the purpose of granting permanent commissions as a means of career advancement in the Army,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

The court held that for men officers since the promotions to command were not automatic, so it would be for women. The Army was left to take a case-to-case call.

Tagged: Justice Chandrachud   Supreme Court   Women Army Officers   permanent commission  
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