The Supreme Court has shattered another glass ceiling by opening the command position in the Indian Army for women officers. It has rightly held that denying women Army officers an opportunity to be in the permanent commission on the ground of social norms and physiological features was disturbing and premised on stereotypes.
Though the women in the Army have worked shoulder-to-shoulder to their male counterparts and brought laurels to the force. Yet, they were deprived of permanent commission, despite their readiness to render their service. It has taken more than a decade for the women officers to get their long-pending due.
The Union government has already made a policy decision on February 25, 2019, to grant permanent commission to women Army Officers. Despite the salutary stand, the government’s law officers produced a damaging note before the court, saying it was always advisable to keep women away from combat positions. It claimed their capture by enemies as prisoners of war would be “extreme physical, mental and physiological stress for the individual and the organisation and overall by the government”.
Besides, going against its stated position, the government raised issues like pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards children and families, physiological limitations and minimal facility for habitat and hygiene, which may confront the women officers.
Expectedly, the government came in for a strong rebuke. This was seen as casting aspersion on their abilities. Raising gender issue was termed as an affront not only to their dignity as women but also to the members of the Indian Army who served as equal citizens in a common mission. Significantly, the number of women officers in the Indian Army was just 1653 against a total of 40825.
The court, for its part, tweaked the policy decision to direct that the permanent commission would be available to all female officers, irrespective of the period of service. So all 10 streams of Indian Army, including Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Intelligence would now be open for the women officers to prove their mettle.
With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the female officers can claim for postings on command positions like their male counterparts, which would, however, be considered keeping in mind the exigencies of service, performance and organisational requirements.
Photo Credit: Global Village Space