Mechanism to induct women cadets into NDA will be ready in May 2022, Defence Ministry tells Supreme Court

UPSC will include women in its exam notification, govt. tells Supreme Court

September 21, 2021 03:55 pm | Updated September 22, 2021 09:35 am IST - New Delhi:

Representational image only.

Representational image only.

The government has informed the Supreme Court that it proposes to have the ‘mechanism’ to induct women cadets into the National Defence Academy (NDA) for entry into the Armed Forces to be ready in May 2022.

The Ministry of Defence told the court in an affidavit that the Union Public Services Commission (UPSC) would include women in its NDA exam notification expected to be published in May, 2022.

Clear and categorical stand

“The government, in line with its commitment, hereby place on record the clear and categorical stand that the women candidates shall be considered for entry in the three defence services, in the existing streams, through the National Defence Academy... Entrance examination for entry into NDA are held twice in a year. The government proposes to have the necessary mechanism in place by May, 2022, ie, the time by which UPSC is required to publish the first notification of 2022, for entrance exam for entry to NDA,” a short affidavit by the Ministry said.

With this, the path is clear for women to train along with men at the NDA, considered a male bastion. After the Supreme Court judgment last year which led to permanent commission for women officers, this is the second time that the court has nudged the Armed Forces towards gender equality.

On September 8, the government had assured the court that the induction of women into the NDA was already under consideration by the Armed Forces.

A Bench led by Justice S.K. Kaul had urged the Armed Forces and the government to “take a proactive approach in gender equality issues rather than leave it unattended and calling for the court to interfere”.

The Ministry said arrangements have to be made regarding infrastructure and curriculum-wise for physical training, etc, before the induction of women.

“While the education curriculum is well-set, all the rest of the aspects of training are required to be formulated separately for women candidates,” the affidavit said.

Importance of physical training

Other issues regarding the capability of the NDA to absorb the intake, the desired cadre structure, downstream effect, envisaged requirement and employment by the respective defence services have to be considered.

The affidavit underscored the importance of physical training.

“Any dilution of physical training and service subjects like parameters of firing, endurance training, field craft and living off the land for women cadets would invariably impact the battle worthiness of the Armed Forces,” it said.

On August 18, the court had issued an interim order allowing women candidates to take the NDA exam, which was then scheduled on September 5.

The court had also questioned why “co-education is a problem” in the Armed Forces.

The court had orally observed that it was ‘absurd’ that women were not allowed to appear for the NDA exam even after the Supreme Court, in a judgment, had directed permanent commission in the Army.

On February 17 last year, the Supreme Court had upheld permanent commission for women officers.

A ‘sex stereotype’

The court had dismissed the government’s submissions that women are physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype” and declared that Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers were eligible for permanent commission and command posts in the Army irrespective of their years of service.

“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 to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army,” the apex court had said in its judgment last year.

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