Supreme Court Deems Termination of Women Officer Based on Marriage Arbitrary

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: February 20, 2024 at 12:30 IST

The Supreme Court, in a case where a female nursing officer was discharged from the Military Nursing Service due to marriage, has strongly condemned it as a ‘coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality.’

Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta, in a Division Bench, reiterated that rules leading to the termination of such women officers based on marriage are unconstitutional.

“Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, right to non-discrimination and fair treatment. Laws and regulations based on gender-based bias are constitutionally impermissible. Rules making marriage of women employees and their domestic involvement a ground for disentitlement would be unconstitutional.,” the Court recorded in its order.

In this case, the petitioner was selected for Military Nursing Services, joined as a trainee at Army Hospital, Delhi, and was granted a commission to the rank of Lieutenant in the MNS. Subsequently, she married an Army officer, Major Vinod Raghwan.

However, she was released from the Army while serving in the rank of Lieutenant (Lt), without a show cause notice or an opportunity to defend her cause. The termination order stated that she was released on the grounds of marriage.

Crucially, the MNS Branch was governed by Army Instruction No. 6 of 1977, titled “Terms and conditions of service for the grant of permanent commissions in the Military Nursing Service,” which allowed termination based on marriage. Initially, the Armed Forces Tribunal, Lucknow, set aside the order and granted all consequential benefits and back wages, restoring her service. The Union appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court noted that the rules were applicable only to women and deemed them ‘manifestly arbitrary.’ Observing that Army Instruction No. 61 of 1977 had been withdrawn, the Court held that terminating employment due to marriage is a case of gender discrimination and inequality.

“This rule, it is accepted, was applicable to only women nursing officers. Such rule was exfacie manifestly arbitrary, as terminating employment because the woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality.,” the Court said.

Considering the petitioner’s subsequent work as a nurse in a private organization, the Court modified the Tribunal’s order for reinstatement.

The Court directed the Union to pay the petitioner compensation of Rs. 60,00,000/ as full and final settlement of all claims within eight weeks, stating that failure to make the payment within this period would incur an interest rate of 12 percent per annum from the date of the order until payment is made.”

Related Post