Maintaining that women and men officers should be treated equally, the Supreme Court on March 17 cleared permanent commission for women in the Navy and asked the Centre to complete the modalities within three months. A Bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said there cannot be 101 excuses for not granting gender equality in the armed forces and a level playing field is needed. Denying permanent commission to women officers who have served the nation would result in a serious miscarriage of justice.
 
What
  1. The Bench, also comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi, rejected the Centre’s stand that sea sailing duties cannot be granted to SSC (Short Service Commission) women officers in the Navy because its Russian vessels do not have washrooms for them.
  2. Such arguments, the court said, are contrary to the Centre’s policy of 1991 and 1998 which lifted the statutory bar on the induction of women officers in the Navy.
  3. The Bench quashed the prospective effect of the policy barring women officers inducted before 2008 from being granted permanent commission in the Navy. It also granted pension benefits to women officers who have retired and were not granted permanent commission.
  4. It said there cannot be gender discrimination in granting permanent commission to women officers in the Navy after the statutory bar was lifted by the Centre to allow entry of women.
  5. Once statutory bar was lifted to allow entry of women officers then male and female officers are to be treated equally in granting permanent commission.
  6. It said that there is enough documentary evidence to suggest women officers in the Navy have brought accolades to the force.
  7. Under the Short Service Commission (SSC), women naval officers retire in 10 years. If permanent commission is granted, women officers will be entitled to serve for four more years, totalling to 14 years.
  8. In February, the SC had upheld a 2010 Delhi High Court ruling, which directed the Centre to ensure that women are given permanent commission in the Indian Army on par with male officers, including a command post.
Flashback
  1.  The induction of women officers in the Army started in 1992.
  2. They were commissioned for a period of five years in certain chosen streams such as Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals, Intelligence Corps, and Corps of Engineers.
  3. Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  4. In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers.
  5. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  6. Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES.
  7. They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
  8. While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  9. They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for the government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.
  10. The first batch of women officers under the new scheme entered the Army in 2008.