Cannot modify verdict granting permanent commission to women on individual pleas: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday made clear that it cannot modify its verdict directing the Centre to consider granting permanent commission to women officers in the Army by entertaining individual grievances, that too almost a year after its pronouncement.

The top court, in its landmark verdict delivered on February 17, 2020, had asked the Centre to consider all serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers for permanent commission irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.

We will not tinker with our judgement on the basis of such miscellaneous applications that too after one year. We cannot be looking into individual cases and start modifying our judgement. There is something called judicial discipline, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said.

The bench, however, granted the counsel for Lt. Col. (Retd.) Priamvada A Mardikar, to approach the Armed Forces Tribunal with her grievances.

It also asked senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Defence Ministry, to use his good office in trying to get the grievances of the former Army officer resolved.

I will certainly use my good office to ensure that her issue is considered, the lawyer assured the bench during the hearing conducted through video conferencing.

The court noted the arguments of lawyer S S Pandey, appearing for the former woman officer, that there were two similarly-placed officers and one of them was granted the permanent commission and the second was denied and she later retired.

The lawyer said it was held by the top court in the verdict that the women officers, who retired during the pendency of the case, will be getting the retirement benefits as commissioned officers.

Permanent commission has been granted to Short Service Commissioned officers in all the ten streams of the Indian Army including Army Air Defense (AAD), Signals, Engineers and Army Aviation.

Justice Chandrachud had authored the last year verdict which had said that as a one-time measure, the benefit of continuing in service until the attainment of 20 years pensionable service shall also apply to all the existing SSC officers with more than fourteen years of services.

It had held that the option of grant of permanent commission shall be given to all women SSC officers and if those with more than 14 years of service do not opt for it then they will be entitled to continue in service until they attain 20 years of pensionable services.

While granting permanent commission to women officers in Army, it had rejected the Centre's stand of their physiological limitations as being based on "sex stereotypes" and "gender discrimination against women". The top court had accepted the Centre's policy of February 25, 2019 to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers in all the 10 streams in the Army.

The top court had said SSC women officers with over 20 years of service who are not granted permanent commission shall retire on pension in terms of policy decision.

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