SC declares medical fitness criteria for women in Permanent Commission in Army ‘arbitrary’

Mahima

The Supreme Court declared medical fitness requirements for women to get Permanent Commission in the Army as ‘arbitrary’ and ‘irrational’. The top court pronounced its verdict on petitions over non-implementation of its previous order in the case of Babita Puniya filed by around 80 women officers for permanent commission in the Indian Army and Navy.

The court directed the Indian Army to reconsider the plea of nearly 650 women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers for Permanent Commission (PC) within a specified period. While disposing of the writ petition, the bench headed by Justice Dr. DY Chandrachud observed,
“We allow these petitions with a number of directions. Officers will be considered for permanent commission subject to disciplinary and vigilance clearance. This shall continue and they shall avail all benefits”.

The top court directed the Central Government to grant PC in the Indian Army and Navy to those women officers who were excluded from the same on failing the fitness standards.
The Court observed,
“We must recognize here, that the structures of our society have been created by males for males. Therefore, certain structures which may appear to be facially harmless are an indication of insidious patriarchal systems. A facially equal application of laws to unequal parties in farce, when law is structured to cater to male standpoint. Superficial face of equality will not be in consonance with the principles enshrined in the Constitution.”

The officers contended that their credentials beyond the 5th and 10th year of services weren’t considered and they were denied PC by the Army merely based on not fulfilling the medical criteria. On the exclusion of women officers, the court observed,
“Some of the best women officers who have served Indian Army have been excluded on the specious ground that these have been achieved after 5 or 10 years on the ground that the benchmark of lower credentials of male counterparts was not met.”

It was highlighted that even those women officers were excluded who brought laurels to the nation, were decorated with prestigious national awards, served various UN and international assignments, and displayed excellent sports performances. The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah remarked, “it is not enough to proudly state that women officers are allowed to serve the Indian Army when the true picture is different.”

The Court also ruled that women officers who were excluded from PC on non-compliance with Shape 1 criteria are entitled to continue as permanent commissioned force till they fulfill the requirements needed for continuance in service. Long back, the Delhi High Court upheld the entitlement of women SSC officers for PC but the army did not implement the same even though there was no stay on the judgment by the Supreme court.