‘Insult to Women’: SC Raps Govt Stance on Women Army Officers

The Supreme Court on Monday, 17 February directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months and said there will not be any absolute bar on giving them command postings.

A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud rejected the Centre’s argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them permanent commission and command postings, saying it is disturbing and against the concept of equality. The judges rapped the government’s arguments for perpetuating sexist stereotypes and being an “insult to women”. 

The bench said women officers in the past have brought laurels to the country and change of mindset is required on the part of the government to put an end to gender bias in the armed forces.

The top court said despite there being no stay on the 2010 Delhi High Court verdict allowing grant of permanent commission to women officers, the Centre showed scant regard in implementing the directive in the past decade.

While reading out the order, Justice Chandrachud said “Women in the Army is an evolutionary process.”

In a note to the court, the government had pointed out several issues, including "physical prowess" and "physiological limitations", as challenges for women officers to meet the exigencies of service in Army.

The court on Monday said that the contentions of the Centre, regarding the issue of physiological limitations and social norms to deny an opportunity to women officers is disturbing and can't be accepted.

The court also said the Centre, by not giving permanent commission to women officers, had prejudiced the case.

A written note by the government to the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 4 February, has said that "troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units" in the Army.

"Composition of rank and file being male, predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms, troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept WOs (women officers) in command of units," said the note.

The note said that the physiological differences between men and women preclude physical performances resulting in a lower physical capacity for women officers.

To this, the court said "administrative will" and "change of mindset" are required on the issue of giving command posts to women officers in the Army.

In its written note, the Centre had said that women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commissions and further career progression in staff appointments only.

Women officers above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without consideration for permanent commission and would be released with pensionary benefits subject to meeting disciplinary and medical criteria.

(With inputs from PTI and News18)

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