Gender stereotypes always put women at a disadvantage in the workplace and exacerbate gender discrimination there. And thanks to a ruling by India’s highest court, some of the discrimination against women were eliminated. The Supreme Court of India on 17th February 2020, authorised the government to make sure that female officers in the army earn Permanent Commissions (PCs), which are careers that last until retirement and include command positions, on par with their male counterparts.
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A permanent commission (PC) entails staying in the military till retirement. If someone is chosen via PC, they can continue to serve the nation until they reach retirement age.. The reason why I’ve highlighted “he/she” is because not very long ago, this option of the permanent commission was only offered to the male officers in the forces. Supreme Court in its landmark verdict of Secretary, Ministry of defence V Babita Punia and others 2020, has allowed for the eligibility of women for permanent commission as well as for commanding positions in the Indian Army. This victory is a culmination of the struggle of 16 long years of women who were relieved from their duties despite their 14 years of long service merely because they entered through short services commission gateways.
Background of women in the army
In the Army, female officer recruitment first started in 1992. She served as an officer for five years in a variety of fields, including the Army Training Corps, Signal Corps, Intelligence Corps, and Engineer Corps.
A woman could acquire her PC as of 2008, but only in the divisions of the Army Educational Corps (AEC) and Attorney General’s Office (JAG). Female officials complained to the Delhi High Court (DHC) in several cases between 2003 and 2006, claiming that women were already hired, about the unfairness and limited chances experienced by their male colleagues. He requested that her PC be placed in the army unit that had been allocated.
What did the Supreme Court observe?
- SC observed that the pattern of evaluation inherently caused economic and psychological harm to women short-service commission officers.
- The court observed that the reliance placed on the women officers’ ACR [annual confidential reports] evaluation for determining the grant of permanent commission was unfair.
- The Court went on to say that even though Article 33 of the Indian Constitution allows some space for restrictions on fundamental rights in armed forces. At the same time these restrictions are applicable only to an extent necessary to ensure proper discharge of duties and responsibilities.
- The court rejected the submissions of the government since they reflected upon the deeply entrenched gender stereotypes which usually discriminated against women class. Their submissions tool recourse to inherent biological differentiation and socially assigned expectation from genders, to substantiate the grounds for argument so forwarded by them.
- The court vehemently opposed the government’s stand as being regressive and reprimanded them for belittling women officers’ contribution to the nation’s security by deeming it as an insult to not only their dignity as women but to the dignity of members of the Indian Army who serve as equals in a common mission.
Present scenario after court’s judgement
The Department of Defence has taken steps to ensure the availability of computers for female officers, and all three offerings will allow pick-stream Permanent recruitment of girls in.
- Indian Air Force: The female officer recruited through her SSC within the IAF has the option to seek her PC in all streams except the Flight Division.
- Indian Navy: In March 2020, SC also released her PC for Indian Navy women. The Navy licenses her PC to women in various departments including logistics, ship design, airfield visitor control, engineering, and law.
- Indian Army: A female officer is given her PC in all 10 branches of the Indian Army and women are accepted into her SSC.
Gender-based service testing should not be done. Women should be able to shift to any position in the military at their own choice, but the requirements for re-enlistment, training and other processes shouldn’t be relaxed. not. Women should be viewed as military personnel first and as human beings second. Quality, ability, and effectiveness should be the determining elements for qualifications and advancement rather than gender. It is time to end the long-standing issue of patriarchy.
When we speak of equal opportunities, it is important that our understanding of the same cuts across a wide spectrum. If men can hold commanding positions, so should women. An outright ban on female candidates for leadership or criterion positions would be inconsistent with Article 14 principle of equality.
Regardless of these struggles, considering these laudable rulings, the future for women is certainly looking much brighter, with the recent government allowing women to be admitted through NDAs and demanding compliance without undue delay. The Supreme Court’s stance to do so is another step on the journey to overcome. Established and ingrained sexism in Indian society and its institutions.
This article was written by Anshu Chaudhary from Lovely Professional University– Student BALLB (Hons) Year: 2nd, 3rd semester.
 INDIA CONSTI. Art 33
 INDIA CONSTI. Art 14