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Govt. presented opposite positions: SC

Policy statement endorsed permanent commission for SSC women officers in two sections

The Supreme Court, which castigated the government for its stand on permanent commission for Short Service Commission women officers, favourably saw a policy statement filed separately by the government as a letter on February 25, 2019. It noted that the government’s note and the February 2019 policy statement clashed with each other.

It wondered how the government had managed to present diametrically opposite positions in court.

10 streams

The judgment recorded that the policy statement had endorsed permanent commission for SSC women officers in 10 streams of the ‘Combat Support Arms’ and ‘Services’ sections. These are Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence, in addition to the existing streams of Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Education Corps.

“The policy decision of the Union government is a recognition of the right of women officers to equality of opportunity,” the court said.

SSC for women is available only in the ‘Combat Support Arms’ and ‘Services’ wings of the Army.

The exclusion of women from combat operations was not examined by the court as it was not the contested in the appeal.

The court dismissed the government’s stand that only women officers with less than 14 years of service ought to be considered for permanent commission, and those with over 20 years of service should be pensioned immediately.

Applying the judgment retrospectively, the court declared that all serving women officers would be eligible for permanent commission. The court held that a blanket ban of women SSC officers from command posts cannot be sustained by law.

“An absolute prohibition of women SSC officers to obtain anything but staff appointments does not fulfil the purpose of granting permanent commissions as a means of career advancement in the Army,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud wrote in the judgment. Justice Hemant Gupta was the other judge on the Bench.

The court held that since command appointments were not automatic for men officers, so would it be for women. It was left to the Army to take a call on a case-to-case basis.

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