Women in Army National

Let women take NDA exam in November: Supreme Court

In command: Women officers of the Army have brought laurels to the force, the Supreme Court said. File photo  

The Supreme Court on Wednesday pushed the armed forces to live up to its reputation as “the best response team we have” to stand up to an emergency, iron out creases and make history happen by allowing women to write the National Defence Academy (NDA) in November this year.

The court was responding to a statement made by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an affidavit that it would have the “mechanism” to induct women into the NDA ready by May 2022.

Senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma and advocate Mohit Paul, for petitioner Kush Kalra, countered that if the NDA entrance exam is announced in May 2022, the actual exam would take place later in September. This would mean that the actual induction of women cadets into the prestigious military academy, the gateway to the three Services and a male bastion, would happen in 2023 — a delay of a whole year.

A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and B.R. Gavai said it was time the armed forces buckle up and make “a beginning”.

The court refused to vacate its order of August 18 that women would write the NDA entrance exam in 2021 itself. The exam is scheduled for November.

The MoD, represented by Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, urged the court to let the November 2021 exam go on as before, without women taking it. It stated that the military establishment would need at least six months to “prepare” for the start of the process for induction of women into the NDA. Ms. Bhati submitted that a study group had been formed to look into the infrastructure and course requirements for women cadets in the NDA.

But the court made it plain that though it was in favour of giving time to the study group, it did not want to delay women from taking the exam.

“We do not accept this situation. The armed forces treat everything as an emergency. They are the best response team we have. They deal with far more difficult situations in the country’s borders, they can deal with this. Do not ask us to vacate our order [of August 18],” Justice Kaul addressed the MoD.

A ‘big step’

The court said it understood that induction of women into the NDA was a “big step” for the armed forces, but “ we believe the process of women taking the exam has to begin without delay”.

Justice Kaul said, “We will not allow anything which will whittle down the aspirations of women. We will only allow you [armed forces] enough time to smoothen the creases, but we will not allow you to set the clock back”.

The court asked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to not hold up the publication of a corrigendum in the NDA exam notification announcing that women candidates would be allowed to take it.

“Don’t put the train in reverse gear,” Justice Kaul told the UPSC, represented by advocate Naresh Kaushik.

Mr. Kaushik said the UPSC was waiting for the Defence Department to specify the medical and fitness requirements for women candidates in order to issue the corrigendum.

The court asked the department to do the needful in this regard. It said the department should, however, be given the “leeway’ to set tentative parameters for women candidates as the study group was still examining the issue. It observed that the case would be kept pending. It wanted to see the outcome of the November exam, including how many women candidates would apply and clear it.

The court posted the case for hearing on a Tuesday in the third week of January.

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Printable version | Oct 20, 2021 7:32:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-pushes-armed-forces-to-let-women-compete-for-nda-in-november/article36605832.ece

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