Permanent commission for lady officers in indian army, permanent commission in army upsc
The women of India have often been an active part in protecting our motherland and its countrymen during the times of war and have fought alongside men. Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi, is one such example, she is considered to be a symbol of resistance to British rule in India and one of the greatest leaders of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. To protect her city and its people, she formed an army.
She fought the British forces, despite being a woman in a 19th century India where a woman leading an army was something unimaginable. Even though she Martyrdom in combat, due to her bravery, fierceness and immense love for her people, she is still alive in the heart of millions of Indians, as a perfect embodiment of woman empowerment and gender equality.
Even during the British rule, the role of women in the Indian Army has been noticeable. The women have a glorious history of serving the Indian Army, starting from the times of World War I and World War II to the present day. Though, women were officially allowed in the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) in 1992.
There were many restriction and regulation on the women officers, especially regarding the grant of permanent commission, primarily based on gender biases. There have been multiple court battles for equal rights without satisfactory results. Still, finally in July 2020, the apex court gave its decision on the appeal debarring all the discriminations and stereotypes, providing true equality to the women officers in the IAF.
Women in Army: Background of the case
The role of women in the Indian Army began in late 1888 when the “Indian Military Nursing Service” was formed during the British rule. These women had fought in both World War I (1914–18) and World War II (1939-45), where 350 of these brave souls either lost their lives in combat or, were declared missing.
The official introduction of women in the Indian Armed Forces after its independence began in the year 1992.
They were commissioned for five years in selected few streams such as – Intelligence Corps, Army Education Corps, Corps of Signals and Corps of Engineers. The women recruits were selected under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES), which had a shorter training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
Later in 2006, the SSC scheme was extended to women officers as well, replacing the WSES scheme. This allowed them to serve a maximum of 14 years as SSC officers. While women could only join through SSC, and they could not opt for permanent commission, the male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service. As a result, the women SSC officers at the end of their service could not qualify for a pension, as it’s only available for those with more than 20 years of service as an officer.
Permanent Service Commission: The battle in the courts
Demanding the grant of permanent commission (PC) to women SSC officers in the army, a PIL was filed before the Delhi High Court in 2003. On 16th October 2006, another writ petition was filed by Major Leena Gurav demanding the same.
In September 2008, the Defence Ministry heard the pleas and passed an order to grant permanent commission to SSC women officers, but only to the officers in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and the Army Education Corps (AEC) departments. This did not satisfy their demands as PC was only granted prospectively, and only in certain specified streams; therefore, this circular was challenged before the Delhi High Court.
2003, 2006, and 2008 challenges were heard by the High Court together, and it passed judgment in 2010. It ruled that women officers of the Air Force and Army on SSC who had sought PC but were no granted shall be entitled PC. Though, this was only available to women officers in service who had instituted proceedings before the High Court, and retired during the pendency of the writ petitions.
Although the High Court judgment was not stayed, the directions given by them were not implemented by the Defence Ministry and the order was challenged in the Supreme Court. The government passed an order in February 2019 for the grant of PC to SSC women officers in 8 streams of the Army in addition to the JAG and AEC. Although any command appointments would not be offered to them, and they would be allowed to serve only in staff posts.
During the hearing, the government proposed, that the women officers with up to 14 years of service would be granted PC, women officers with more than 14 years of service will be given permissions to serve up to 20 years and would be offered retirement with pension and for those with more than 20 years of service would be released immediately with the provision of pension.
The Supreme Court’s decision on Permanent Service Commission
The government presented other arguments before the SC to justify the proposal on the grounds of PC, grants of pension, for discrimination against women, SSC as a support cadre, and rationalization on physiological limitations for employment in appointing staff.
Though the SC has rejected these arguments; as they were said to be based on gender-based stereotypes premised on assumptions and also which discriminate against women. Moreover, it also said that it only shows the necessity of bringing “change in mindsets” to achieve true equality in the Army.
The Defence Ministry has issued a letter to grant PC to women officers in the Indian Army on 23rd July 2020. In addition to the existing streams of Advocate General, Judge, and Army Educational Corps, this order allows PC to the SSC women officers in all ten streams of the Indian Air Force (Army Air Defence, Signals, Army Aviation, Army Ordnance Corps, Engineers, Electronics, Mechanical Engineers, Army Service Corps, and Intelligence Corps).
The SC has abolished all the regulations and discriminations based on the years of service for the grant of PC in all ten streams of combat support arms and services. It brings the SSC women officers at par with the male officers. However, the most significant and far-reaching aspect of the judgment is the removal of the restriction of women officers only being allowed to serve in staff appointments.
The decision by the SC is a huge step in the right direction for the country, as women in the Indian Armed Forces have had a demonstrated history of being excellent officers, the removal of these regulations will further open windows of opportunities for them. It will not only bring change in the training, pension, and promotion process for the SSC women officers but also bring significant change in the mindset of people.
With proper training, the women officers will have just as much to contribute as their male counterparts. Such an example can be seen as a case of Avani Chaturvedi, Mohana Singh and Bhawana Kanth. They were the first-ever Indian women pilots to undergo fighter pilot training in 2018. And as a result of proper training and equal opportunities, in 2019, Lieutenant Bhawana Kanth became the first Indian woman fighter pilot in the of the Indian Air Force and created history.
The SC’s progressive decision is excellent in bringing true equality in the Indian Army, as the senior military and political leadership will have no choice but to put an end to the artificial hurdles created based on a stereotype.