Woman Cadet at Naval Academy, Relegated for 'Indulging in Physical Intimacy', Alleges Discrimination

The woman alleged that the male cadet had been handed a lighter punishment and that in the past, lesser punishments were awarded for similar offences.

New Delhi: A female trainee officer cadet, who was relegated for “indulging in physical intimacy” with another trainee, has approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) alleging that she was discriminated against.

According to a report in the Indian Express, the woman alleged that the male cadet had been handed a lighter punishment and that in the past, lesser punishments were awarded for similar offences.

AFT proceedings noted that a show-cause notice was issued to the woman cadet in May 2020 on why she should not be withdrawn from training at the Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala in Kerala and discharged from naval service. “The final approval/decision on the same is pending at the level of the first respondent (Government of India/MoD),” it said.

The woman cadet, who was undergoing training at the naval academy, was relegated during the third term (2020) on disciplinary grounds for “indulging in physical intimacy with another trainee”. As she had been relegated in 2019 also on disciplinary grounds, she was considered unworthy of retention in naval service and was withdrawn from the academy.

“In that the male cadet, who came to the applicant’s cabin in the early hours of March 29, 2020, who kissed the applicant, was only given relatively minor punishment, not amounting to relegation, whereas the applicant is being relegated/withdrawn,” the counsel for the cadet held and added that the order was harsh and discriminatory.

The counsel, seeking reinstatement at the academy with a lesser punishment, also held that she should be allowed to graduate since she had qualified as outstanding in academics, physical training tests and swimming tests.

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Furthermore, the counsel cited cases of “similarly placed lady cadets” from the Observer Branch and Naval Armament Inspection Branch who had been dealt with “leniently” in cases involving male cadets. “The former was not awarded any punishment while the latter was awarded 21 restrictions,” the counsel said.

The AFT, on the other hand, noted that cadet had been repeatedly found guilty of disciplinary offences, for which she had been relegated twice.

“In the first instance, she accepted that she had used unfair means during a written examination and, in the second, the male cadet involved had come to her cabin at 0130 hours and left at 0400 hours. Thus, the action to withdraw the cadet from training and sending her back home was appropriate to the circumstances and in keeping with the high standards of discipline expected from officer cadets,” the AFT noted the government counsel as stating.

The AFT bench found some merit in the applicant’s submissions but held that it did not feel that the applicant should be reinstated in service “at this stage”.

“Thus, interim relief sought on behalf of the applicant is partially accepted. Whereas we do not agree, at this stage, that the applicant should be reinstated in service, we direct that the order of the respondents to withdraw the applicant from training and discharge her from Naval service, if any, be held in abeyance till a final decision is taken in this case,” the bench said while adjourning the matter to January 2021.

In response, the female cadet moved a fresh application before the AFT on November 6, stating that she would become overrage for training if she was not permitted to participate in the training scheduled in November 2020. The bench said that since the applicant has already been granted interim protection, the question of overage will not come in her way in case she is found eligible for training.