New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday (November 21) issued notice to the Union government on a petition filed by 34 women Army officers, seeking rank promotions for women. Their petition said that despite the landmark February 2020 Supreme Court order in the Babita Punia case, women officers’ promotions to higher ranks has not been implemented.
On February 17, 2020, the Supreme Court of India granted ‘Permanent Commission’ to ‘Short Service Commission’ (SSC) female officers of the Indian Army in the ‘Service Arms’ and ‘Combat Support Arms’ streams on the same terms as for male officers. This decision came after years of legal struggle on the part of women officers.
In March 2021, the Supreme Court held that women absorbed as permanent officers will be given the consequential benefits. The court gave the Union government three months to implement this order.
In the latest petition, 34 Lieutenant-Colonel rank women have said that despite the Supreme Court’s clear directives, no selection boards have been formed to promote them to Colonel rank. At the same time, such boards have been formed for male officers.
“…the respondents have not been conducting the Special No. 3 Selection Board and thereby the respondents, without any justification or valid reason, have been causing inordinate delay in promoting these women officers, despite clear cut direction of this Court. Historical and Landmark Judgments dated 17.02.2020 and 25.03.2021, passed in Babita Puniya Case and Lt. Col. Nitisha & Ors Vs. Union of India & Ors, respectively, say women officers, who will be granted a permanent commission, will be entitled to all consequential benefits including promotion and financial benefit,” the petition said, according to NDTV.
According to the Times of India, advocate V. Mohana, appearing for the petitioners, told the court that women officers “are being wrongly denied study leave and deputation… they are still being subjected to systematic, indirect and gender discrimination”.
“Senior women officers are forced to serve under junior gentleman officers in a highly seniority conscious organisation like the Indian Army and they are being posted as additional officers, being treated as superseded or re-employed officers, to carry out jobs which are generally assigned to captain or major rank officers,” Mohana continued.
The case was heard by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli. According to the Times of India, after hearing the petitioners’ plea, the bench told the Union government’s advocate R. Balasubramanian that if this were the case, no selection board should be held for men either. When the advocate replied that the men’s selection board had already met, the bench replied, “then do not declare the results”.
The Union government’s lawyer reportedly assured the court that processes would be followed and women officers would not be discriminated against in any way.