Former Army Chief during Kargil era hails SC judgement on women in Army

The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women officers in the Army within three months, terming the Centre's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying them command posts "disturbing".

A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said there will not be any absolute bar on giving them command postings.

It 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 armed forces.

Hailing the decision, former Army Chief, Ved Malik said that it was "welcome and implementable".

General Ved Prakash Malik was the 19th Chief of Army Staff, serving at the time of the Kargil War.

"Argument that soldiers will not accept orders from lady officers is fallacious; undignified for men and women of the armed forces," he took to Twitter to write.

"The submissions advanced in the note tendered to this Court are based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women," the bench said on Monday.

"Underlying the statement that it is a greater challenge for women officers to meet the hazards of service owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families is a strong stereotype which assumes that domestic obligations rest solely on women," it added.

It said reliance on inherent physiological differences between men and women rests in a deeply entrenched stereotypical and constitutionally flawed notion that women are the "weaker sex" and may not undertake tasks that are "too arduous" for them.

Rejecting the Centre's arguments, the bench said it is founded on the physical strengths and weaknesses of men and women and on assumptions about women in the social context of marriage and family which do not constitute a constitutionally valid basis for denying equal opportunity to women officers.

"To deny the grant of PCs to women officers on the ground that this would upset the peculiar dynamics in a unit casts an undue burden on women officers which has been claimed as a ground for excluding women," it said.

It held that the option of grant of PCs shall be given to all women SSC officers and if those with more than 14 years of service do not opt for grant of PCs then they will be entitled to continue in service until they attain 20 years of pensionable service.

The Congress on Monday welcomed the Supreme Court verdict on leadership roles for women in the armed forces, with Rahul Gandhi alleging the BJP government disrespected Indian women by arguing in court that they did not deserve command posts as they were inferior to men.

It termed the verdict a "victory" for every citizen who believes in equality bereft of sexes and a "defeat and rejection" of the Narendra Modi government and its "myopic thinking and thought process dating back to the 17th century".

While Gandhi lauded the women for standing up and proving the government wrong, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the verdict has opened new vistas and new doors to India's daughters and urged Prime Minister Modi to not wait for three months and implement it immediately.

(With inputs from agencies)

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