New Delhi: A two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, upheld a 2015 verdict of the Delhi High Court and ruled that there cannot be gender discrimination while granting permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Navy.
The court directed the Union government to grant permanent commission to serving women officers in the Navy within three months.
Justice Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi said denying permanent commission to women officers who have served the nation would result in serious miscarriage of justice.
The court said there cannot be gender discrimination in granting permanent commission to women officers in the Navy once the statutory bar was lifted by the Centre to allow entry of women.
“Once statutory bar was lifted to allow entry of women officers then male and female officers are to be treated equally in granting permanent commission,” the court said.
Delhi HC ruling of 2015
A permanent commission entitles an officer to serve in the Navy until retirement, unlike Short Service Commission (SSC) that is currently for 10 years and can be extended by four more years, or a total of 14 years.
The case pertains to appeals filed by the Union government against a September 2015 judgment of Delhi High Court that held there was no convincing reason to exclude serving women officers from consideration for permanent commission.
In September 2008, the central government had decided to grant permanent commission to women officers but it was applicable only prospectively to women SSC officers. The serving women officers were excluded from this entitlement.
Reading the verdict Tuesday, Justice Chandrachud said there was no reason to discriminate as “women can sail with the same efficiency as men”.
The Delhi HC had held that exclusion of serving women officers from permanent commission was irrational and arbitrary. The court had also cited women officers who had retired during the pendency of the case before they could be reinstated.
‘There cannot be 101 excuses for not granting gender equality’
Reading the verdict Tuesday, the Supreme Court highlighted how there should be no discrimination between male and female officers. “Enough documentary evidence to suggest women officers in Navy brought accolades to force,” said the court.
The top court also junked the central government’s stand that women officers in the Navy can’t be granted sea duties because its “Russian vessels don’t have washrooms for them”, and ruled that “there cannot be 101 excuses for not granting gender equality in armed forces”.
The SC had in February this year, in a similar case relating to the Indian Army, ruled that SSC women officers in service are entitled to permanent commission.
Such women officers, the court said on February 17, have to be considered for permanent commission, irrespective of them having exceeded 14 years of service.
The proposal by the central government in this regard to restrict permanent commission to SSC women officers with less than 14 years of service was rejected by the SC.