Womens in forces get full term rights
NEW DELHI: In a significant judgement, the Indian Air Force and Army have been asked to grant Permanent Commission to women officers.
It's clearly the season for women. The week started with the women's reservation bill being passed by the Rajya Sabha, and it is ending with a landmark court judgment that breaks another glass ceiling for women by allowing them permanent commission in the Indian armed forces.
On Friday, the Delhi high court directed the government to grant permanent commission to interested women officers of the armed forces serving under the short service commission. The court, however, turned down the plea for allowing women in combat operations.
The armed forces establishment has reacted negatively to the judgment and is in favour of challenging the order in the Supreme Court. However, the government's view is not known. Observers say, given its pro-women stance, it might be uneasy about going in appeal.
Delivering its verdict, a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and M C Garg said permanent commission was not a "charity being sought by women officers but enforcement of their constitutional rights". It found the policy of not offering permanent commission (PC) to women SSC officers discriminatory.
"If male officers can be granted PC while performing those tasks there is no reason why equally capable women can't be granted PC," the court observed while disposing of appeals filed by more than 50 retired and serving women officers. The first appeal dates back to 2003.
However, the relief has come with several caveats. The ruling is applicable only to those officers recruited prior to 2006 when the government decided to stop shifting officers from SSC to PC across the board, be it men or women.
The HC ruling on permanent commission for women in the Indian armed forces comes with some caveats. Male officers on SSC have been given permanent commission despite a government order because of the acute shortage of officers. Given this fact, it is a moot point whether the court will allow the inequity if women officers were to go before it.
Significantly, while arguing that PC could not be granted retrospectively, the government counsel said this option could be allowed for women recruited in the future. The court, however, held that the petitioners — many of whom had retired by now — should be granted the benefit. "These women officers have served the armed forces of the country well in the areas of operation they were recruited for and have worked in this capacity for 14 to 15 years... There is no reason why these persons who have knocked the door of the court should be deprived of the benefit," the court said.
The court refused to go into the debate on whether women should be allowed in combat, which was one of the pleas. "There are countries which have given opportunity to women even in combat areas but there are social and cultural ethos which vary from country to country... Thus we are clearly of the view that it is not for the court to decide which areas of operation of armed forces women should be employed in," the bench observed.
In its 32-page order, the HC directed the government to grant within two months' time all benefits of PC to all eligible women officers.