Feb 18, 2020-Tuesday
In a landmark order, the Supreme Court has upheld the right of short service commissioned (SSC) women officers to be entitled to permanent commission in the Indian Army. It also said that there could not be an absolute bar for considering women officers for command positions. This was in response to the government’s petition challenging a Delhi High Court order of 2010 to grant permanent commission to women officers at par with their male counterparts.
The SC’s verdict is welcome. For one, it upholds the right to equality in the Constitution — for the spirit of the order is the principle of non-discrimination. Gender cannot serve as the basis for inequitable and unequal treatment in any sphere, including in defence forces. Two, the SC has categorically rejected the arguments of the Centre — which was based on physiological limitations of women and prevailing social norms, including family obligations — and made it clear that casting aspersions on their ability was an insult to both women and the Indian Army. Three, it has very explicitly opened the doors for women in command positions, thus ensuring they will have a role in decision-making in due course of time.
It is now time for the government to implement the order both in letter and in spirit. This will involve changing mind sets internally, for male officers continue to see women as best suited for adjunct roles and not as equals. The decision will encourage more women to think of a career in the military. This may begin a process of correcting the gender imbalance in India’s forces.