The Army has granted permanent commission to 147 additional women officers, about four months after the Supreme Court directed it to reconsider the cases of those who were rejected on medical grounds.
On March 25, the top court had held that the evaluation criteria for granting permanent commission to women officers systematically discriminated against them. The court had also ordered a review of the method of evaluation of annual reports for future batches.
After the order, an Army selection board reconsidered the cases of the officers and granted permanent commission to 147 women, a statement by the defence ministry announced. With this, the number of women who have been granted the commission has increased to 424.
“With grant of PC Permanent Commission), the women officers are transcending into an era of gender parity and are gearing up to assume challenging leadership roles, akin to their male counterparts,” the defence ministry’s statement said.
The results of a few women officers have been withheld for administrative reasons and are awaiting the outcome of a clarification petition in the Supreme Court.
The officers who have been selected will undergo special training courses and military assignments seeking to prepare them for higher leadership roles in the Indian Army.
Criticism from top court
In March, the Supreme Court had pulled up the Centre on the subject of permanent commission, saying that it had ignored several years of their meritorious service while asking them to meet the medical fitness criteria on the date of their consideration for the posts.
Justice DY Chandrachud noted that the Centre asked for SHAPE-1 (Psychological, Hearing, Appendage, Physical and Eyesight) certification whenever it wanted. “But you ignore their years of meritorious service rendered post the fifth year or the tenth year,” he observed.
The court had noted that the Delhi High Court had granted relief to women officers in this matter in 2011, and the Supreme Court had not stayed the order.
In an earlier hearing, the Supreme Court had questioned why the Army required women officers seeking permanent commission to have the same fitness standards at the age of 45 as those applied to 25-year-old male officers. The court had criticised the Centre for perpetuating sex stereotypes.
Earlier, the Centre had told the court in a written note, “Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards and hence the physical capacity of women officers in the Indian Army remain a challenge for command of units.”
In a landmark verdict in February last year, the Supreme Court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted a permanent commission, including command postings.
The Army had constituted a special selection board in September 2020 to screen women officers. The results were declared in November 2020. Later, some women who were not granted a permanent commission had moved the Supreme Court.