Army women role review

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  • Published 7.07.10

New Delhi, July 6: The government has sought a review of a Delhi High Court order that asks the army to grant permanent commission to women officers.

The defence ministry today filed a special leave petition in the Supreme Court after the high court issued notices to the army chief, General V.K. Singh, the defence secretary, Pradeep Kumar and the Adjutant General, Lt General Mukesh Sabharwal, on Monday.

Women are recruited into the military only on short service commission (for a maximum of 14 years). Men can qualify for permanent commission depending on their service record.

The high court asked the government to explain its position on directions given by it on March 12 on a petition by 52 women officers of the army and the air force.

In March, the high court had directed that the women should be granted permanent commission in non-combat role.

The high court had asked the government to “offer permanent commission to short service commissioned women officers of the air force and the army on a par with the male short service commissioned officers with all the consequential benefits and had specifically directed that the necessary steps, including reinstatement and release of financial benefits, shall be done within two months of the passing of the order.”

The air force has begun implementing the order but the army is against the granting of permanent commission on the ground that there will be problems of acceptance in its culture because all soldiers below officer rank are men.

The army’s opposition to the grant of permanent commission to its women officers leaves A.K. Antony’s defence ministry to do the tightrope walk. Antony has said that, in principle, he favours the grant of permanent commission to women officers. Yet, the government has sought a review of the high court’s directions.

The high court’s notice to the government came after a May 28 notification to a batch of women officers telling them that they are scheduled to retire on August 23. Retired women officers have challenged the notification. The hearing is slated for August 18.

In their petition against the army, four women officers, Lt Col (retd) Sangeeta Sardana, Lt Col (retd) Reenu Khanna, Maj (retd) Seema Singh and Maj (retd) Rita Taneja said the defence ministry and army officers should be punished for “wilfully disobeying the judgment and order dated 12.3.2010 passed by this Hon’ble Court….”

The petitioners said that on June 2 — more than three months after the high court order — the adjutant general had informed them “that the judgment was still being analysed and therefore it is premature to spell out any line of action at this stage”.

There are 784 women officers in the Indian Air Force and 4,101 women officers in the army. The navy has 252 women officers. None of the petitioners to the high court was a woman officer from the navy.