Army’s evaluation process affects women seeking permanent commission: Supreme Court

Top court directs force to reconsider case of applicants

March 25, 2021 12:26 pm | Updated 12:26 pm IST

File photo for representation. “All these women have served the nation and are still serving. They are in the saddle today,” Justice Chandrachud said.

File photo for representation. “All these women have served the nation and are still serving. They are in the saddle today,” Justice Chandrachud said.

NEW DELHI

The Supreme Court on Thursday held that the Army’s selective evaluation process discriminated against and disproportionately affected women officers seeking permanent commission.

A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud observed that the pattern of evaluation inherently caused economic and psychological harm to short service commission women officers.

The judgment, authored by Justice Chandrachud, said what appeared to be harmless on the face hid “insidious” patriarchy.

“We must recognise here that the structures of our society have been created by males for males. Superficial face of equality does not stand true to the principles enshrined in the Constitution,” the top court said.

The court said the case of women officers who had applied for permanent commission should be reconsidered in a month and a decision on them should be given in two months.

‘Arbitrary requirements’

They would be considered for permanent commission subject to disciplinary and vigilance clearance. The court said though the administrative requirements imposed on the Army by equating these women with men with lowest rank were arbitrary, physical standards should be kept at a premium while selection.

However, the court said Shape 1 criterion was implemented belatedly.

The Supreme Court had recently expressed annoyance at the roadblocks placed by bureaucrats in the way of women officers seeking permanent commission, promotion and consequential benefits.

The court was exasperated with a medical criterion by which women officers with 10 to over 20 years of service and in the age bracket of 35 to 50 had to compete with gentlemen officers aged between 25 and 30 for permanent commission.

“All these women have served the nation and are still serving. They are in the saddle today. Army cannot be oblivious to the fact that after 26 years of service, they are only saying that at 52 don’t expect us to compete with men at the age of 25 and 30... If you apply the medical standards of a 25-year-old man to a woman officer who has gone through childbirth, how do we protect the rights of these officers?” Justice Chandrachud had asked.

2020 verdict

On February 17, 2020, the Supreme Court declared that women officers in the short service commission should be provided an equal opportunity with their male counterparts for a shot at permanent commission and promotions.

The verdict had dismissed as “sex stereotype” views that women were physiologically weaker than men.

“Women officers of the Indian Army have brought laurels to the force… Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but also to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army,” Justice Chandrachud had observed in that judgment.

The verdict was the result of a 15-year battle by women officers for equality at workplace.

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