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Women to get permanent commission in Indian Army

New Delhi: Calling for an end to gender bias in the Armed forces, the Supreme Court on Monday opened the way for women in command positions in the Army and directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers within three months.

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud termed "disturbing" the government's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying women officers command posts and said they had brought laurels to the country in the past.

Marking a milestone on the road to gender parity in the Army, the Apex Court bench called for a change of mindset on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in the Armed forces and said there will be no absolute bar on giving women command postings.

The bench, however, clarified that deployment of women officers in combat roles is a matter of policy as held by the Delhi High Court and the competent authority has to look into it.

Slamming the Centre, the court said despite no stay on the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict allowing grant of permanent commission to women officers, the government showed scant regard in implementing the directive in the past one decade.

It said the engagement of women officers in the Army has been an evolutionary process and the Union of India should have acted in accordance with the Delhi High Court judgment when there was no stay on it.

"There is no reason and justification for the Union of India not to act as per the Delhi High Court verdict. On September 2, 2011, the Supreme Court has clarified this aspect and said there is no stay on the high court verdict. Despite that, scant regard has been paid to the verdict of Delhi High Court and the order of Supreme Court as well," the bench said.

The bench said it is of the opinion that physiological features of women have no effect in granting permanent commission and they have to be given equal opportunity at par with their male counterparts in the Armed forces.

The top court said there is need for a change in mindset with regard to giving equal opportunity to women officers in the Indian Army even after 70 years of post-colonial era.

It said the Centre's submission of physiological limitation is based on flawed notions and there is no constitutional basis to deny them equal opportunity.

There are 1,653 women officers in the Army, 3.89 per cent of the total number of officers in the Army.

According to the court, women officers brought laurels to the country and won several gallantry and Sena medals as well as UN Peacekeeping awards for their contribution in the Armed forces. To cast aspersions on them on the basis of physiological features is wrong as it is based on fallacy, it said.

The top court said permanent commission can be given to women officers in the Army irrespective of their tenure of service. It also directed the Centre to grant permanent commission within three months to all women officers in Army who opt for it.

According to the order, the new policy will also benefit all Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers — "SSC women officers with less than 14 years, as well as beyond 14 years of service will be granted permanent commission."

With agency inputs

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