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New Delhi: The Defence Ministry told the Supreme Court that the notification for the entrance exam for women candidates seeking entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA) will be published by May, 2022.
“Keeping the timeline in mind, deliberate planning and meticulous preparation is needed to ensure smooth induction and seamless training of such women candidates,” the ministry said in an affidavit filed with the Supreme Court.
Earlier in September the Union government had informed the Supreme Court that the armed forces have decided to induct women into the NDA. The latest affidavit, filed by Captain Shantanu Sharma, Director (AG), at DMA, Ministry of Defence, is on the modalities of the process of induction.
“The Government of India, in line with its commitment, hereby place on record its clear and categorical stand that the women candidates shall be considered for entry in the three defence services, in the existing streams, through National Defence Academy,” the ministry said.
The NDA entrance exams are held twice a year and the government proposes to have necessary mechanism in place by May 2022, the time by which the Union Public Service Commission will be required to publish the first notification for the exam.
A Study Group has been constituted by the Defence services, comprising experts to formulate a curriculum for women cadets at NDA, the Union government said, adding that a Board of Officers has been convened to formulate a “holistic and futuristic proposal” for the training of women cadets at the NDA.
LiveLaw has quoted from the affidavit to highlight some of the “preparatory actions” that the Union government has mentioned:
1. The Directorate of General Armed Forces Medical Services and a body of experts will formulate medical standards for women candidates.
2. The intake strength shall be determined by several factors, including cadre ratio, capability of a service academy, and so on.
3. Curriculum for training of women candidates will have to be formulated without dilution of physical training aspects that can impact the battle-worthiness of candidates.
4. “With regard to infrastructural requirements, the affidavit submits that accommodation requirements shall be expanded over time till the permanent plan fructifies,” the report notes.
The apex court has been hearing a plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra which raised the issue of exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates from joining the NDA solely on the ground of sex – which Kalra held was in violation of the fundamental right of equality.
The plea said that while authorities allow unmarried male candidates with the required 10+2 qualification to take the ‘National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination’, but eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take the examination on the sole ground of their sex and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations within the constitution.
It alleged that this act of discrimination is a dishonour committed by the concerned authorities to the Constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination.
The petition stated that UPSC conducts the ‘National Defence Academy & Naval Academy Examination’ and as per eligibility criteria, any unmarried male candidate with the required educational qualification and aged between 15-18 years can appear in it.
The plea said the candidate, on qualifying the exam and on successful completion of training at the NDA and subsequent training at the respective academy of the service the cadet opts for, gets commissioned into the service as a permanent commissioned officer by the age of 19 to 22 years.
This opportunity to take the NDA and Naval Academy Examination at the age of 15-18 years, with the eligible academic qualifications is not available to eligible and willing female candidates and the sole reason for this categorical exclusion is on the basis of their sex, the plea said.
It claimed that duration of training for the Short Service Commission women officers is very less compared to the training that a male permanent commission officer, who gets entry through the NDA, gains.
(With PTI inputs)