Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Taking a significant step towards gender equality, the Division Bench of Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy, JJ., issued interim direction permitting the women candidates to take part in the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination.

Noticeably, the three modes of recruitment of officers in the Indian Army are through the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Officers Training Academy (OTA). NDA and IMA are modes of direct entry through UPSC; whereas, through OTA, women are commissioned along with men, both through UPSC and Non-UPSC mode of entry. They are granted Short Service Commission, both men and women, and subsequently are considered for grant of Permanent Commission.

ASG, Ms Aishwarya Bhati submitted before the Bench on behalf of the Union government that a policy decision should not be interfered by an interim measure. It was her submission that subject to certain conditions laid down by the Supreme Court in Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya, 2020 (7) SCC 469, ten streams are open for women officers in army.

Pointing out the apparent gender biasness on the part of Army, the Bench asked, whether in the ten streams is there recruitment of male officers from the NDA route? Expressing disappointment over the reply of the Army, the Bench stated,

“We would have expected a more considered affidavit on policy decision based on gender equality more specifically keeping in mind the observations of this Court in Babita Puniya’s case (Supra).”

In view of the impending examination and on hearing counsel for parties, the Bench issued interim direction permitting the women candidates to take part in the NDA examination scheduled for 05-09-2021, subject to further orders from the Court. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) was directed to take out the necessary corrigendum in view of the interim orders and give it wide publicity so that the intent of the order is translated into benefit at the ground level.

Similarly, taking note that the process of admitting girls in Sainik Schools had already started and it would be further expanded, the Bench commented on non-inclusion of girls in Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC),

“It is stated that it is a 99 years old institution which will complete 100 years next year. The question is whether it completes its 100 years with gender neutrality or not!”

Since the matter has direct relation with admission in NDA programmes, the Bench scheduled it on 09-09-2021 for consideration.[Kush Kalra v. Union of India, Writ Petition(s)(Civil) No.1416 of 2020, 18-08-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For Petitioner(s): Petitioner-in-person, Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, Sr. Adv., Mohit Paul, AOR, Sunaina Phul, Adv. and Irfan Haseib, Adv.,

For Respondent(s): Aishwarya Bhati, Ld. ASG, Archana Pathak Dave, Adv., Ruchi Kohli, Adv., Chinmayee Chandra, Adv. and Arvind Kumar Sharma, AOR

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In yet another big verdict on rights of women, a bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has lifted the statutory bar on the engagement or enrolment of women in the Indian Navy to the extent envisaged in the notifications issued by the Union Government on 9 October 1991 and 6 November 1998 under Section 9(2) of the Navy Act, 1957.

On the contention that certain sea-going duties are ill-suited to women officers, the Court said that such contention is premised on sex stereotypes that male officers are more suited to certain duties by virtue of the physiological characteristics.

“Performance at work and dedication to the cause of the nation are the surest answers to prevailing gender stereotypes. To deprive serving women officers of the opportunity to work as equals with men on PCs in the Indian Navy is plainly discriminatory. Furthermore, to contend that women officers are illsuited to certain avocations which involve them being aboard ships is contrary to the equal worth of the women officers who dedicate their lives to serving in the cause of the nation.”

The Court, hence, passed the following directions:

  • By and as a result of the policy decision of the Union Government in the Ministry of Defence dated 25 February 1999, the terms and conditions of service of SSC officers, including women in regard to the grant of PCs are governed by Regulation 203, Chapter IX, Part III of the 1963 Regulations;
  • The stipulation in the policy letter dated 26 September 2008 making it prospective and restricting its application to specified cadres/branches of the Indian Navy shall not be enforced;
  • The provisions of the implementation guidelines dated 3 December 2008, to the extent that they are made prospective and restricted to specified cadres are quashed and set aside;
  • All SSC officers in the Education, Law and Logistics cadres who are presently in service shall be considered for the grant of PCs.

“The right to be considered for the grant of PCs arises from the policy letter dated 25 February 1999 read with Regulation 203 of Chapter IX Part III of the 1963 Regulations. SSC women officers in the batch of cases before the High Court and the AFT, who are presently in service shall be considered for the grant of PCs on the basis of the vacancy position as on the date of judgments of the Delhi High Court and the AFT or as it presently stands, whichever is higher”

  • The period of service after which women SSC officers shall be entitled to submit applications for the grant of PCs shall be the same as their male counterparts;
  • The applications of the serving officers for the grant of PCs shall be considered on the basis of the norms contained in Regulation 203 namely:
    • availability of vacancies in the stabilised cadre at the material time;
    • determination of suitability; and
    • recommendation of the Chief of the Naval Staff. Their empanelment shall be based on inter se merit evaluated on the ACRs of the officers under consideration, subject to the availability of vacancies;
  • SSC officers who are found suitable for the grant of PC shall be entitled to all consequential benefits including arrears of pay, promotions and retiral benefits as and when due;
  • All SSC women officers who were denied consideration for the grant of PCs on the ground that they were inducted prior to the issuance of the letter dated 26 September 2008 and who are not presently in service shall be deemed, as a one-time measure, to have completed substantive pensionable service. Their pensionary benefits shall be computed and released on this basis. No arrears of salary shall be payable for the period after release from service;
  • As a one-time measure, all SSC women officers who were before the High Court and the AFT who are not granted PCs shall be deemed to have completed substantive qualifying service for the grant of pension and shall be entitled to all consequential benefits; and

The Court, further directed that 5 women Commanders, namely Commander R Prasanna, Commander Puja Chhabra, Commander Saroj Kumar, Commander Sumita Balooni and Commander E Prasanna, who were not reinstated despite Court’s interim order, shall be entitled, in addition to the grant of pensionary benefits, as a one-time measure, to compensation quantified at ? 25 lakhs each.

Earlier, the same bench had ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service.

[Union of India v. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraja, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 326, decided on 17.03.2020]

Case Briefs

Supreme Court:

“Seventy years after the birth of a post-colonial independent state, there is still a need for change in attitudes and mindsets to recognize the commitment to the values of the Constitution. This is evident from the submissions which were placed as a part of the record of this Court.”

In a major verdict today, the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, JJ has ordered that the permanent commission will apply to all women officers in the Indian Army in service, irrespective of their years of service. The Court also ordered that after the judgement of Delhi High Court, Centre should grant permanent commission to women officers.

Holding that the blanket non- consideration of women for criteria or command appointments absent an individuated justification by the Army cannot be sustained in law, the Court said that the Army has provided no justification in discharging its burden as to why women across the board should not be considered for any criteria or command appointments. Command assignments are not automatic for men SSC officers who are granted PC and would not be automatic for women either.

The Court took a strong exception to the following submissions made by the Union of India,

(i) The profession of Arms is a way of life which requires sacrifice and commitment beyond the call of duty;

(ii) Women officers must deal with pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families and may not be well suited to the life of a soldier in the Armed force;

(iii) A soldier must have the physical capability to engage in combat and inherent in the physiological differences between men and women is the lowering of standards applicable to women;

(iv) An all-male environment in a unit would require „moderated behavior? in the presence of women officers;

(v) The “physiological limitations” of women officers are accentuated by challenges of confinement, motherhood and child care; and

(vi) The deployment of women officers is not advisable in areas where members of the Armed forces are confronted with “minimal facility for habitat and hygiene”.

Terming the aforementioned submissions ‘disturbing’, the Court said that reliance on the “inherent physiological differences between men and women” rests in a deeply entrenched stereotypical and constitutionally flawed notion that women are the „weaker? sex and may not undertake tasks that are “too arduous” for them. It said,

“Underlying the statement that it is a “greater challenge” for women officers to meet the hazards of service “owing to their prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families” is a strong stereotype which assumes that domestic obligations rest solely on women.”

The Court further highlighted that numerous other commendation certificates and laurels achieved by women officers have been placed on record. Their track record of service to the nation is beyond reproach. To cast aspersion on their abilities on the ground of gender is an affront not only to their dignity as women but to the dignity of the members of the Indian Army – men and women – who serve as equal citizens in a common mission.

The Court, hence, issued the following decisions:

(i) The policy decision which has been taken by the Union Government allowing for the grant of PCs to SSC women officers in all the ten streams where women have been granted SSC in the Indian Army is accepted subject to the following:

(a) All serving women officers on SSC shall be considered for the grant of PCs irrespective of any of them having crossed fourteen years or, as the case may be, twenty years of service;

(b) The option shall be granted to all women presently in service as SSC officers;

(c) Women officers on SSC with more than fourteen years of service who do not opt for being considered for the grant of the PCs will be entitled to continue in service until they attain twenty years of pensionable service;

(d) As a one-time measure, the benefit of continuing in service until the attainment of pensionable service shall also apply to all the existing SSC officers with more than fourteen years of service who are not appointed on PC;

(e) The expression “in various staff appointments only” in para 5 and “on staff appointments only” in para 6 shall not be enforced;

(f) SSC women officers with over twenty years of service who are not granted PC shall retire on pension in terms of the policy decision; and

(g) At the stage of opting for the grant of PC, all the choices for specialisation shall be available to women officers on the same terms as for the male SSC officers. Women SSC officers shall be entitled to exercise their options for being considered for the grant of PCs on the same terms as their male counterparts.

(ii) We affirm the clarification which has been issued in sub-para (i) of paragraph 61 of the impugned judgment and order of the Delhi High Court; and

(iii) SSC women officers who are granted PC in pursuance of the above directions will be entitled to all consequential benefits including promotion and financial benefits. However, these benefits would be made available to those officers in service or those who had moved the Delhi High Court by filing the Writ Petitions and those who had retired during the course of the pendency of the proceedings.

[The Secretary, Minister of Defence v. Babita Puniya, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 200, decided on 17.02.2020]