PM Modi’s Independence Day ‘gift’ of permanent commission for women of the short service commission was widely hailed but is off the mark.
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced in his Independence Day speech Wednesday permanent commission for women officers of the armed forces selected through the Short Service Commission (SSC).
“I want to give good news to my brave daughters,” he said, “Today I announce that women officers who have been selected through the Short Service Commission in our defence forces will now have the option to take up permanent commission just like male officers.”
“From the ramparts of the Red Fort today, I announce this for the lakhs of daughters who wear the uniform and want to work for the country. This is my gift for them today,” he added.
It appears however, that the PM was giving women officers a gift they already have.
“Women officers commissioned in short service will get the opportunity for a permanent commission like their male counterparts.”
— Raksha Mantri (@DefenceMinIndia) August 15, 2018
According to an official statement issued by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) dated 31 July, 2015: “Women Short Service Commission Officers (SSCOs) (are) eligible for consideration for grant of permanent commission in specified branches in terms of government policy letters dated 26 September 2008 and 11 November 2011.”
According to the PIB, the information was provided by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar in a written reply to MP Pritam Gopinath Munde in the Lok Sabha.
The “government policy letters” in question date back to 2008 and 2011 — seven and four years before the official announcement.
The “specified branches” refer to non-combat roles like the judge advocate general (JAG) department (the Army’s judicial wing), cyber and information technology, air traffic control, and staff selection boards.
In the Supreme Court
Responding to the defence ministry’s announcement on Twitter, former Army officer Navdeep Singh, who is also a lawyer specialising in military issues, said that while Modi’s announcement was “great news”, he hoped “the appeals filed by the central government in the Supreme Court challenging the grant of permanent commission to women are withdrawn”.
He added it was worth noting that the “the government’s recent stand in courts is just the opposite of this (announcement)”.
This is wonderful news @nsitharaman. Thanks.
I hope the appeals filed by the Central Govt in SC challenging the grant of Permanent Commission to women are withdrawn. It may be emphasized that the govt’s recent stand in Courts is just the opposite of this.https://t.co/nHqxpQPdl9
— Navdeep Singh (@SinghNavdeep) August 15, 2018
Women Army officers of the SSC have been fighting a long and difficult battle for permanent commission. It took 57 Army officers a four-year-long court battle in the Delhi High Court to be granted permanent commission in March 2010.
Prior to the ruling, women officers were required to retire after 14 years of service with no scope of promotion or pension, even in non-combat roles. SSC men, however, were eligible for permanent commission after 14 years.
The Army, however, had challenged the Delhi High ruling through the Central government in the Supreme Court in 2010. But the other two arms of the defence forces — the Navy and the Air Force — complied with the high court order.
Eight years later, in April 2018, the central government seemed to be on the brink of changing its mind.
The Centre told the Supreme Court that it was finally considering granting permanent commission to SSC women army officers, but ruled out the same for combat roles.
Fact-checking Prime Minister Modi, this is how the situation stands today: Permanent commission is already offered to women officers in the armed forces in select non-combat branches. Women were also always offered permanent commission in the medical and nursing services.