Serving women army officers won their first round of legal battle with the Government assuring the Supreme Court that it will be consider giving them permanent commission in legal and educational branches. However, these officers demanding permanent commission in combat, infantry and other wings of the army will have to wait for a longer period to get this recognition.
Seven years after the protracted legal battle, Government, which was at the receiving end in the apex court, gave an undertaking that women serving officers of Short Service Commission will be considered for permanent commission in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and educational branches of army.
The undertaking in this regard, which stated that the exercise will be completed within two months, was submitted by Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium before a Bench comprising Justices J M Panchal and Gyan Sudha Mishra.
The Bench recorded the undertaking which said, "The Solicitor General on instruction states that women short service commission officers in service shall be considered for permanent commission in JAG and educational branch of Army."
The court also recorded the undertaking that the case of Major Lina Gurung, a short service commission officer, who is retiring in August will be considered on priority subject to the requirements.
After the SG gave the undertaking, the Bench stayed contempt proceedings against army till further orders for not complying with the Delhi High Court directions to grant permanent commission to women serving in the armed forces.
"In view of the statements made at Bar by the Solicitor General, the contempt proceeding is stayed till further order," the Bench said. In all there are 2,200 women officers including 1,200 in army, 750 in airforce and 250 in navy, according to Defence Ministry figures.
The Bench asked the government to file an additional affidavit elaborating the nature of duty assigned to the officers getting permanent commission.
The court said after receiving the details from the Army, it will further examine the issue of permanent commission for women Army officers.
As soon as the proceedings began, the Bench said, "If you can't give permanent commission, why at all give the short service commission to the women in the Army."
The Bench asked "Why do you give short service commission at all, if you don't find them eligible for permanent commission. Why then in Air Force, the permanent commission is given ?"
Subramanium replied that permanent commission is given in Air Force as the women officers are not asked to be in a combat position.
"In Army, you have to command battle troops in the battlefield," the SG said.
At this point, the Bench wanted to know if women officers in SSC lead the troops to the battlefield.
Subramanium said only the male officers who are given permanent commission from SSC go for training for command appointment.
"If a person is not trained for 15 years to lead a troop, how will you give them permanent commission," he said.
Currently, women are inducted in the Army as officers under Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years whereas their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.
The Bench wanted to know whether so far no lady officer had ever been sent to the battlefield.
The SG said that there has not been any such case since "the appointment in infantry leads to the battlefield".
While concluding the hearing, the court asked the Army to show from the records that the male officers who are given permanent commission after the SSC are sent for battle training.
The apex court had on July 26 asked the Army to produce before it the government notification which debars women officers from getting permanent commission in the armed forces.
The Army had moved the apex court challenging the Delhi High Court judgement directing the armed forces to grant permanent commission to women serving in the armed forces. Sixty serving and retired women officers from Army and Air Force had moved the High Court which had said they should be treated equally with male officers. PTI