Questioning how marriage can have an adverse impact on a person’s ability to become an officer in the Judge Advocate General department of the Indian Army, the Delhi High Court on Friday asked the Centre to file a comprehensive affidavit in response to a petition alleging institutionalised discrimination against married women from entering JAG department.
The high court gave the Centre four weeks to file its affidavit.
The court is hearing a petition moved by Kush Kalra seeking to declare unconstitutional the eligibility conditions of the JAG department which prohibits entry of candidates on ground of gender or marital status in JAG.
While Kalra moved court against married women being discriminated against, the Army had, in an affidavit filed before the high court, said not only married females, but even married males are now prohibited from entry into its Judge Advocate General (JAG) department and all entries across the board while justifying its recently-introduced restriction on married males on the ground of changed socio-economic setup of Indian society compared to the 60/70s vintage when most men in 20-25 years age group were married.
Kalra also sought direction to the Army to consider candidates aged 21 to 27 for recruitment irrespective of their marital status in JAG department.
It is to be noted that initially, the Army had prohibited entry of married females in the JAG department.
However, during the pendency of Kalra’s petition, the Centre issued a corrigendum dated August 14, 2017 which extends prohibition on married females to married males for various entry schemes, including JAG.
The Army cited its vintage instructions to justify why married males were allowed entry into Army but not married females before the 2017 corrigendum placed prohibition on both married females and males.
“At the time when these Army instructions were formulated, the socio-economic realities of the country were such wherein at the age group of 20-25 years, a large number of males were married. Under such circumstances, not permitting married males would have reduced the eligible candidates to less than half. However, the induction of women was started in 1992. By then the socio-economic realities of the country had changed a lot and both male and female choose to opt for career as their first option before settling down for marriage,” it had said.
Kalra also challenged the corrigendum saying it should be quashed/stayed for curtailing the civilians’ rights to marry after attaining the legal age.
He said the Army could not change the conditions during the pendency of the petition.