This case analysis is written by Prithiv Raj Sahu, a student of KIIT School of Law, Bhubaneswar (4th year).
Supreme Court of India
Civil Appeal No’s
9367-9369 of 2011
Date of Judgement
17th February 2020
Dr DY Chandrachud, Ajay Rastogi, JJ
Defense Law, Constitutional Law
Gender stereotypes always create barriers for third gender and women in the professional spaces and it also deepens gender discrimination at work. One of the many gender discriminations from which women were battling ended in their favour as the Supreme Court of India in a landmark, and extremely laudable judgment named The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & Ors. Ordered the grant of permanent commission (hereinafter PC) in 10 non-combat service units at three months and held them to be eligible to hold command posts by enervating the existing ceiling. It also provides equal opportunity for women in the Indian Army by providing them long-term job security, and the judgment is regarded as the watershed moment in the history of the Indian army. In various countries, these positions were granted a long time before like Norway allowed women in all combat battles in 1985, Pakistan also inducted its first women fighter pilot in 2013, the USA also allowed all ground combat roles for women in 2016, etc. Further, we will discuss the major events, facts, issues raised, and the judgment in detail to get a logical conclusion about this noteworthy case.
In February 2003, a PIL under the watchful eye of the Delhi High Court looked for permanent commission for women officials enlisted through the Short Service Commission (SSC) in the military compared to their male associates. As in Strategy amendment in 2006 permitted them to serve for a limit of 14 years as an SSC official. The Centre chose in September 2008 to concede the permanent commission to SSC ladies officials in the Judge Advocate General office and Army Education Corps and their comparing branches in the Air Force and Navy. In March 2010, a Delhi High Court Bench admitted the appeal of such petitions and guided the Defence Ministry to stretch out permanent commission advantages to the SSC women officials of the Air Force and Army who had decided on permanent commission yet not conceded the equivalent. In July, the Army tested the request. It was on September 2, 2011 that the case arrived at the Apex Court in advance. The Apex Court held that the activity of the denounced judgment hasn’t remained in any way. In May 2018, Centre disclosed to Apex Court that it is thinking about giving permanent commission to women officials enrolled through SSC in the Army. In August, PM Modi reported a significant move by announcing that women officials will have the option to decide on changeless commission in parts of the military separated from existing ones like law and instruction. In February 2019, the legislature brought a notification reporting permanent commission of women officials yet tentatively made it appropriate just to those women officials dispatched after this request. The serving officials were kept out of the ambit of this notification. In the same month, the Centre issued a request for an award of perpetual commission to new SSC officials in eight battle bolster arms/administrations.
- Whether women should be granted Permanent Commission in the Indian Army?
- Whether the guidelines issued by the Government of India dated 15th February 2019 should be implemented?
- What are the conditions governing the Women Officers in the Indian Army?
The Specific Argument Points of the Union Government was:
- Grant of PC
- Pensionary Benefits
- Policy considerations
- Occupational hazards
- SSC as a support cadre
- Employment in staff appointments
The Specific Argument Points of the Respondent was:
- Battlefield Scenario
- Unit cohesion
- National security
The court held that a plain reading of section 12 of the Army Act asserts that the policy decision of UOI dated 25 February 2019 allows for PC of women officers in ten streams. This policy decision of UOI recognizes the right of women officers to equality of opportunity. This right has facets Principle of non-discrimination on the ground of sex which is embodied in Article 15(1) of the Constitution and Equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters of public employment Under Article 16(1). The court regarded the submissions given to it by UOI as one promoting sex stereotypes and gender discrimination. It is assumed that domestic responsibility rests solely on women. The idea that there is an inherent psychological difference between men and women is constitutionally flawed as assumes that women are the weaker sex.
This decision by the Supreme Court no doubt is appreciable and commendable and should be admired by all of us. It ensures the women’s position in the Indian Army and also prevails in gender justice in the Army also. It removed the blanket restrictions imposed on the women officers for holding higher rank posts. It is rightly observed by the decision given by the bench headed by Justice Chandrachud that it is an insult to women officers and to the Indian Army also when aspersion is cast on women, their potential, ability, and achievements in the army.
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