The apex court's query came after the Centre apprised it that the selection process for grant of permanent commission to women officers in the Army has culminated and results have been declared.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday sought to know from the Centre, the individual status of 615 serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers in Indian Army, out of whom 422 have been found fit on merit for the grant of permanent commission.
The apex court’s query came after the Centre apprised it that the selection process for grant of permanent commission to women officers in the Army has culminated and results have been declared.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and Indira Banerjee fixed the plea filed by several women officers, who were not selected for grant of permanent commission for further hearing in December and sought to know the details of each of the applicants who had applied for grant of permanent commission.
At the outset, senior advocate P S Patwalia, appearing for some women candidates, said that one of his client has completed 20 years in service but was not granted permanent commission and if the court fixes another date, she will be relieved from the service.
He said that his second client is completing her engineering course but now she has been denied permanent commission and no one has told why she was not granted the permanent commission. He sought an interim order of status quo till the next date of hearing.
The bench said that it cannot pass such orders without looking at the counter affidavit or hearing the Centre.
Counsel appearing for Centre told the bench that their affidavit is almost ready and within a day’s time it will be filed.
Senior advocate Meenakshi Arora, appearing for another set of candidates, claimed that as per media reports out of 615 candidates only 277 has been granted permanent commission.
She contended that many of the women who have not been selected for permanent commission are decorated officers and the government is not even filing the reply to their petitions.
Arora urged the court that let this not be a partial victory for women in Armed forces and sought assurance from Centre that there will be no precipitative action qua the petitioners till the next hearing in the matter. The bench asked counsel appearing for the Centre to seek instruction for ensuring no precipitative action till the next date of hearing.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, appearing for the Centre, said that their affidavit is ready but a fresh Interlocutory Application has been filed which needs to be taken care of. He said that the government will respond to all 17 petitioners before the court individually.
The bench said that one candidate has cleared to complete M. Tech degree course and her case should be looked into independently by the government. Jain said that out of 615 candidates, 422 have been found to be fit on merits.
The bench said that it would take up the matter for detailed hearing in December and by then the Centre should file a chart and tell the individual status of each of the applicants. On July 7, the top court had granted one more month to the Centre to implement its verdict directing that permanent commission be given to all serving SSC women officers in the Army.
The Centre had told the court that decision making on the issue is at a final stage and only formal orders remain to be issued and the court’s verdict will be complied with in letter and spirit.
In a landmark verdict on February 17, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission and command postings, rejecting the Centre’s stand of their physiological limitations as being based on “sex stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”.
It had directed the Centre that within three months, all serving SSC women officers have to be considered for Permanent Commission (PC) irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.
The top court had said that women officers have got numerous commendation certificates and laurels and their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach.
It had rejected the Centre’s submission that women officers cannot be granted permanent commission due to physiological limitations, all-male environment in a unit, combat capability and said that mindset change is required to recognize the values of the Constitution.
The top court had noted that Indian Army has sanctioned 50,266 posts for officers, while the posts currently occupied are 40,825 including 1,653 by women officers. It had noted that there is a shortage of 9,441 officers in the Indian Army.
There are a total of 1,653 women officers which is a miniscule 4 per cent of the total strength of commissioned officers in the Army, it had said. The total of 1,653 officers includes — 77 having above 20 years of service, 255 having service tenure between 14 and 20 years and the fate of 322 women officers was to be decided by the verdict of the apex court.