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On 23rd July, Government of India formally issued the sanction letter for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers in Indian Army. It is meant to empower women officers to hold larger roles in the military. Spokesperson of the Indian Army said that the order grants Permanent Commission to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) women officers in all ten streams of Indian Army in addition to the existing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC). A selection board will be scheduled for the officers once the affected SSC officers exercise their options and complete required documentation.
Govt has issued formal sanction letter for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers in Indian Army, paving the way for empowering women officers to shoulder larger roles in the organisation: Indian Army spokesperson (1/3)
— ANI (@ANI) July 23, 2020
Supreme Court had granted one extra month on 7th July to execute its February orders
In February 2019, the government of India endorsed the permanent commission for women officers in the Indian Army. The government said that the women should be allowed for permanent commission in 10 different roles of ‘Combat Support Arms’ and ‘Service sections. However, the government had also said that women officers would not be appointed on the commanding officer’s position and they will serve as staff only.
On 17th February 2020, the Supreme Court dismissed the government’s argument that only those women officers who have completed less than 14 years of service will be eligible for permanent commission. The court also rejected the clause that women officers with more than 20 years of service should be immediately pensioned. The court stated that all women officers would be eligible for the command posts that also went against the option indicated by the government in 2019.
The Supreme Court said that if women officers are kept away from commanding posts for physical, social and mental reasons, it will be considered discriminatory. The court said that women are not physiologically weaker than men and ordered to provide an option of the permanent commission for Short Service Commission women officers who were eligible for the posts without taking their years of service in consideration. The court asked the government to complete the process by July.
On 7th July, the government of India told the Supreme Court that the process is in its last stage and they need little more time to complete the formalities. Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, for petitioner Babita Puniya, and Meenakshi Lekhi argued that the government is only trying to delay the process. Senior advocate R. Balasubramanian who was representing the centre in the case said that the allegations are not true and the government will complete the process in the next month. Supreme Court granted one extra month for the same.
Permanent Commission in Army for women – A decades-old battle
Permanent Commission in Army refers to the option of continuing as an officer in the Army till the age of retirement, i.e. 60 years. For permanent commission, an officer has to join the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) or Officers Training Academy (OTA). Till date, women were not allowed for combat roles in the Indian Army. In 2010, Delhi High Court passed a judgement in which it allowed Permanent Commission in Indian Army. The then-Congress government opposed the decision and filed a petition against the judgement in the Supreme Court. It took almost a decade for the court to complete the proceedings and allow Permanent Commission for women in Indian Army. The central government that was opposing the commission under Congress rule changed its stand under BJP and supported the Permanent Commission for women. However, they had suggested some restrictions which were rejected by the Supreme Court.