Women officers should be given command roles in Army, SC tells Centre

Supreme Court chastised Centre for not implementing a judgment of Delhi HC in 2010

army rep pti Representational image | PTI

A Supreme Court bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Ajoy Rastogi on Monday ruled that women should be granted permanent commission in the Indian Army.

The bench was pronouncing its order on a plea by some women officers of the Army seeking extension of permanent commission rules for women officers.

Till September 2019, permanent commission in the Army for women was restricted to the departments of the Army Education Corps and the Judge Advocate General branch. In September that year, the Central government ordered that permanent commission option would be open to women in 10 other departments based on command assignments. This would require the officer to be experienced in commanding field units.

The women petitioners, who joined the Army via Short-Service Commission, were granted an initial extension of five years after serving five mandatory years. This was then increased by four more years, without a policy. The women officers would have to retire after 14 years of service, with lesser benefits than their male counterparts.

Last week, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that women were not suitable for command posts in the Army as male troops were "not yet prepared" to accept women officers. “The composition of rank and file being male, and predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command,” the Centre said in an affidavit.

In its verdict, the Supreme Court noted that the arguments presented by the Centre were "contrary to its own policy" of 2019 on extending permanent commission options for women. It observed that the Centre's arguments for opposing permanent commission roles by citing physiological features perpetuated "gender stereotypes".

The Supreme Court was quoted by Live Law as saying, "It is an insult to women as well as the Army when aspersions are cast on women, their ability and their achievements in the Army."

The Supreme Court also chastised the Centre for not implementing a judgment of the Delhi High Court in 2010 that held that women officers, who are under Short-Service Commission, should be granted permanent commission on par with male counterparts.

The Supreme Court ruled permanent commission should be granted to women in the Army in all roles, except combat operations. "Considering the Delhi HC judgment, Union had the obligation to grant female officers permanent commission," the Supreme Court was quoted as saying by Live Law.