Justice DY Chandrachud
Justice DY Chandrachud

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rapped the Centre over the issue of permanent commission to women in Army, saying that while asking for today's fitness, a woman officer's years of meritorious service is ignored.

"When it suits you, you ask for today's fitness, SHAPE 1 as on today. But you ignore their years of meritorious service rendered post the 5th year or the 10th year. This shows how warped it is. Is the idea to exclude women or to give them equal opportunity?" Justice DY Chandrachud said on Tuesday.

The medical yardstick of Grade 1 is key to permanent commission. SHAPE stands for Psychological (Cognitive functions and normalities), Hearing, Appendage, Physical and Eyesight, and is required to be as on date of their consideration for grant of Permanent Commission.

"Some of them might have become national swimmers, they might have gone on the around-the-world yacht expedition, they may have climbed Mount Everest in the intervening years, but all this is ignored. They are senior officers of the Army and some of your best candidates, but you are not even looking at this. Even the subsequent honours and awards are not considered," he said.

The observation came on the Centre's response to the argument by women officers who said that while adjudging their suitability on merit, their intervening service records after the 5th or the 10th year of induction are disregarded, Live Law reported.

Appearing for the Defence Ministry, ASG Sanjay Jain said that the same consideration of service records up till the 5th or the 10th year is applicable to their male counterparts also. Justice Chandrachud shot back that the male officers were also considered for permanent commission upon completion of their 5 or 10 years in service while women were not.

The counsel argued that the tests are applied universally and the government has no mala fide intention.

"The Union of India has no mala fide intention. We have applied those tests which meet the standards of objectivity and include the maximum possible people, and have kept within the realm of our policy in doing so," the ASG said.

Earlier last month, the Supreme Court had said that it cannot modify its verdict directing the Centre to consider granting permanent commission to women officers in the Army by entertaining individual grievances.

The top court, in its landmark verdict delivered on February 17, 2020, had asked the Centre to consider all women officers serving Short Service Commission (SSC) for permanent commission irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.

Permanent commission has been granted to SSC officers in all the ten streams of the Indian Army including Army Air Defense (AAD), Signals, Engineers and Army Aviation.

Justice Chandrachud had authored the last year verdict which had said that as a one-time measure, the benefit of continuing in service until the attainment of 20 years pensionable service shall also apply to all the existing SSC officers with more than fourteen years of services.

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

While granting permanent commission to women officers in Army, it had rejected the Centre's stand of their physiological limitations as being based on "sex stereotypes" and "gender discrimination against women".

The top court had accepted the Centre's policy of February 25, 2019 to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers in all the 10 streams in the Army.

The top court had said SSC women officers with over 20 years of service who are not granted permanent commission shall retire on pension in terms of policy decision.

It had noted that Indian Army has sanctioned 50,266 posts for officers, while the posts currently occupied are 40,825 including 1,653 by women officers.

It had noted that there is a shortage of 9,441 officers in the Indian Army.

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