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The Supreme Court on Thursday has directed the Indian Army for commission of women officers in army. The bench comprising of Justices D.Y Chandrachud and M.R Shah has declared the evaluation criteria adopted by army to be arbitrary and irrational.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Several petitions seeking permanent commission of women officers in army were filed by some women officers challenging the rejection of their application.
  • Evaluation criteria constitutes of systematic discrimination causing economic and psychological harm and an affront to their dignity.
  • Bench marking women officers with lower credentials to their male counterparts is a ruse to bye-pass the judgement.
  • Commission of women officers in accordance with the decision in Babita Puniya case shall not be disturbed.

BACKGROUND DETAILS

  • In the Babita Puniya’s case, it was held that permanent commission in army sought by women engaged in short term services is justified and declared as a quest for equality of opportunity.
  • The Union Government had issued communication on 25th February, 2019 for grant of PC to WSSCO’s. On 17th February, 2020 the court further issued directions to Union Government regarding its policy statement. The petitions were then filed questioning the manner in which the decision of Babita Puniya’s case has been implemented.

ORAL ARGUMENTS

  • Assessment of female officers for permanent commission was not done in same manner as that of their male counterparts.
  • It was argued that the threshold and criteria that is applied to male officer after 5years of service is being applied to female officers after 15ears.
  • Male officers are directly allowed for permanent commission. On the contrary, female officers have to first get commissioned into short services.
  • The medical yardstick that the female officers are expected to meet is that of entry stage of SSC. Their service records after 5th and 10th year of induction are disregarded.

COURT’S OBSERVATIONS

  • The court held the freezing of ACR evaluation after 5th or 10th year for women to be arbitrary and irrational causing systematic discrimination. The court made some very important observation by stating that “a facially equal application of law to unequal parties is farce. Superficial face of Equality does not stand true to the principles enshrined in the Constitution"
  • Lt. Col. Shikha Yadav, Lt. Col. Tashi Thapliyal and Major Pallavi Sharma have been denied PC despite the fact that they have proved their merit in service and sports. The court stated "It is not enough to proudly state that women officers are allowed to serve the Indian Army, when the true picture is different”
  • Regarding medical criteria, it was observed that PC after the judgement of Delhi High Court was a right accrued to women officers and not merely a legitimate expectation. The SHAPE-1 medical criteria should be applied on the basis of the date when they were entitled for consideration.
  • The administrative requirements adopted by the army were held to be arbitrary. The medical criteria adopted in august 2020 will be applied at 5th or 10th year of service as the case may be. Bench-marking of female officers with lower credentials of their male counterparts is stated to be specious.

CONCLUSION

The court has observed that-
"We must not forget that those women officers who have remained in service are those with the tenacity to hold on and to meet the exacting standards of which the Indian Army has made her citizens proud. They do not come to the Court seeking charity or favour. They implore us for a restoration of their dignity, when even strongly worded directions by the Court in Babita Puniya have not trickled down into a basic assessment of not subjecting unequals to supposedly "neutral parameters".

DO LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW OF HOW YOU THINK THIS DECISION IS GOING TO CHANGE THE GENDER NORMS IN THE INDIAN ARMY

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