Today's Paper

Court strikes down gender discrimination in Army and Air Force

Nirnimesh Kumar

NEW DELHI: Ruling that not granting permanent commission to Short Service Commissioned women officers in the Air Force and the Army amounts to gender discrimination, the Delhi High Court on Friday directed the two defence services to give permanent commission to all such women officers who were recruited before May 2006.

The judgment by a Division Bench of the Court comprising Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice M. C. Garg came on a bunch of petitions by some Short Service Commissioned women officers.

Their contention was that the Air Force had promised in its advertisement for recruitment that the Short Service Commissioned officers would be offered permanent commission after completion of five years in service and subject to availability of vacancy and suitability of the candidates.

However, the Air Force changed the recruitment policy in May 2006 saying that no Short Service Commissioned officers whether male or female would be given permanent commission.

The women officers submitted before the Court that they were not given permanent commission when they applied for it. However, their counterpart male officers working with them were granted permanent commission which was discriminatory.

The women Short Service Commissioned officers of the Army had sought their absorption in the permanent commission on the ground of parity with the Air Force women officers.

They further argued that they were discriminated against vis-à-vis male officers as the latter were granted permanent commission while they were denied the same despite working in the same department and having equal merit and experience.

Counsel for the Army and the Air Force opposed the petitioners' contentions submitting that the matter was related to a policy decision which was the privilege of the Executive and the Court should not interfere with it.

Allowing the petitions, the Bench said: “The Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Air Force who had opted for permanent commission and were not granted the same but granted extension of Short Service Commission, and of the Army are entitled to permanent commission at par with male Short Service Commissioned officers with all consequential benefits.''

“This benefit would be conferred to women officers recruited prior to change of policy. The permanent commission shall be offered to them after completion of five years. They would also be entitled to all consequential benefits such as promotion and other financial benefits. However, the aforesaid benefits are to be made available only to women officers in service or those who have approached this Court filing these petitions and have retired during the course of pendency of the petitions,'' it said.

However, the Court refused to entertain the claim of absorption in permanent commission by the petitioners in areas of operation not open for recruitment of women saying that, being a policy decision, it could not be sustained.

“The policy decision not to offer permanent commission to Short Service Commissioned officers across the board for men and women being on parity and as part of manpower management exercises is a policy decision which is not required to be interfered with,” it ruled.

The Court also made it clear that women officers who have not attained the age of retirement available for permanent commissioned officers shall, however, be reinstated in service and granted all consequential benefits including promotion except for pay and allowance for the period they have not been in service.

The Court asked the Air Force and the Army to take necessary steps including release of financial benefits within two months of this order.