The reasons cited by the Central Government for not giving command appointments to women in Indian Army have been criticized as 'highly regressive' in the written submissions filed by women officers in the Supreme Court.
"It is highly submitted that the justification/reasons stated in the Note handed over on behalf of the Union of India with regard to denying Women Officers command appointment is not only highly regressive buy also completely contrary to demonstrated record and statistics", stated the written submissions submitted by Senior Advocate Aishwarya Bhat in the case.
The Government has cited physical limitations, reluctance of male troops predominantly from rural background to accept women in command, domestic obligations due to social roles of women etc., as reasons for denial of command appointments to women.
Refuting these arguments as baseless, the 19-page written submissions stated :
"The demonstrated fact is that the Women Officers have been serving in the 10 Combat Support Arms, for the last 27-28 years and have proven their metal and courage under fire. They have been found suitable by the organization itself and have led platoons and companies of soldiers and men, both in peace locations as also hostile locations/operations, in the 10 Combat Support Arms. There has never been any occasion of soldiers/men having refused or not accepted the command of women on account of their perceived 'rural background, with prevailing societal norms'"
To rebut the Centre's arguments on physical weaknesses and unsuitability of women in command officers, the written submissions have referred to examples of women officers such as Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, Divya Ajit Kumar, IAF officer Gunjan Saxena etc, who have received gallantry awards for their bravery during combat operations.
As per the written note :
"It is extremely unfortunate that reasons of women lacking on various counts, prevailing societal norms and lack of combat exposure etc., are being cited as a lame excuses. It is submitted that Women Officers have been working shoulder to shoulder, with their colleagues in the Indian Army. Even as SSCWOs, they have been working as company commander and leading the soldiers from the front as per the ethos of the Indian Army. As young officers in the rank of Captain and Major, they have been in hostile and combat zone and have displayed exemplary courage and bravery, acting exactly in the manner commensurate with the respect that Indian Army commands, world over. To deny them command appointments would be an extremely retrograde step and will inflict irreparable injury to the dignity of these brave women".
Physical Limitations, Mentality Of Male Troops Etc., Reasons To Deny Command Appointments To Women In Army : Centre Tells SC [Read Notes]
This is in the case Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya and others, which is regarding the denial of Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers in the Armed Forces. The Centre has filed appeals against a 2010 judgment of Delhi High Court which held that Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Air Force and the Army, who had applied for Permanent Commission but were only given extension of SSC, are entitled to PC at par with male Short Service Commissioned officers with all consequential benefits.
A SC bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi on Wednesday reserved orders on the matter concerning Army. The cases pertaining to Air Force and Navy will be heard next week.
Opposing the arguments made by the Centre against extending PC to women officers, the note said :
"The argument that women officers are not trainable in specialization enivsaged for permanent commission of women officers, skewed cadre structure, lower physical capabilities etc. are grounds/excuses that follow the pattern of regressive mindset, rather than being based on experience or statistics", stated the note filed women officers who have impleaded as additional respondents in the case.
On February 25, 2019, the Centre had taken a policy decision to grant Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission Women Officers in 8 streams of Indian Army (Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronic and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Coprts, Army Ordinance Corps and Intelligence), in addition to existing 2 streams of Judge Advocate General and Army Educational Core (AEC).
This policy is however not extended to SSCWOs who have service above 20 years. Women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commission and further career progression in accordance with this policy. Also, those above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve till 20 years without PC and those past 20-year 20-year service would be released with pensionary benefits.
This classification made in the policy is being challenged as arbitrary and unreasonable, in so far as it denies equal benefits to all classes of SSCWOs.
"This proposal of the Union of India smacks off arbitrariness & hostile discrimination qua the Women Officers who have pioneered the battle for grant of Permanent Commission to Women Officers and have been pursuing their remedies before the Hon'ble Court since 2003, when the lead Writ Petition No.1597/2003 was filed before the Hon'ble High Court", stated the written submissions.
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