The turning point in the Indian Military comes forth as the Supreme Court of India, today, said that the women officers in the Indian Army are as eligible for commanding positions as are the male officers. The Supreme Court asserted that government’s arguments against it were simply “disturbing”, “discriminatory”, and based on the long running stereitypes.
The apex court ordered that the verdict must be implemented in no longer than 3 months.
From now on, a women officer will be eligible to rise to the ranks of Colonel (pronounced Kernel) and higher based of her merit, just like any male officer.
At the rank of Colonel, an army officer receives huge commanding roles and could delegate independent tasks. A Colonel heads a battalion which usually consists of over 800 personnel. A women officer who successfully attains this post could also reach the highest ranks in the Army, however, at this moment, she could not be inducted into the combat arms of the Army such as armoured, infantry, or artillery corps.
The Supreme Court added that any woman officer who has served over 14 years in the Short Service Commission (SSC) of the Indian Army shall be offered a permanent commission. The court said “We see no reason not to grant permanent commission to those who have had more than 14 years in service”.
The apex court also said that there is a “fundamental fallacy” in the policy of the central government who only considers women officers with under 14 years for permanent commission., the court said that all women officers should be covered under the policy, irrespective of the years of service.
The government, to the apex court, said that “troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units” as a majority of them are “predominantly drawn from a rural background”.
The Supreme Court said that the Army shall not discriminate between men and women, and struck down the gender bias that was being followed since decades. The court said “To cast aspersions based on gender is an affront to their dignity and to the country. Time has come that women officers are not adjunct to their male counterparts”.
The top court also rejected the arguments of the centre that there are physiological limitations and certain “social norms” because of which the centre denied the permanent commission to the women and called it disturbing.
Justices Ajay Rastogi and D Y Chandrachud, in the landmark judgement, said “Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change”. The court said that the absolute ban on granting commanding posts to the women officers in the Army is against the Constitutional right of right to equality and is irrational.
The government also presented the argument to the top court saying “troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units” as the major chunk of them are from “predominantly drawn from a rural background”.
Referring to the women officers who made India proud said “Women work shoulder to shoulder with men. The centre’s submission is based on gender discrimination and stereotype. Women Army officers brought laurels to the country”.
The court noted that the petitioners argued on the physical capabilities of women along with the composition of the ranks and psychological and file realities. The judges said that these “need to be rejected with the contempt that they deserve”.
Currently, women officers who have served between 10 and 14 years in the SSC are allowed into the Army Service Corps, Education Corps, Ordnance, Engineers, Intelligence, Judge Advocate General, Signals, and Electrical and Mechanical engineering branches only. There is no process for allowing the women officers to be allowed in combat roles such as armoury, infantry, artillery, and aviation.
The Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force grant permanent commission to its women officers and have even opened up certain combat roles for them. The IAF allows women officers on ground and flying duties and Women IAF SSC officers fly transport aircraft, helicopters and now, they even fly fighter jets. The Indian Navy allows the women officers which are inducted via the SSC into logictics, observers, law, maritime reconnaissance pilots, air traffic control, and Naval Armament Inspectorate Cadre.