Women can appear for the admission examination for the National Defence Academy, the Supreme Court said in an interim order on Wednesday, reported Bar and Bench. This year’s examination is scheduled on September 5.
The results of the examination would, however, be subject to the final verdict on the matter.
The bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy was hearing a plea by lawyer Kush Kalra seeking permission for women candidates to appear for the exam. Kalra argued that the exclusion of candidates from the NDA was not constitutionally justifiable, and amounted to discrimination on the basis of sex, reported the Hindustan Times.
During the proceedings, the court criticised the Centre and the Indian Army for gender discrimination. “It is [a] mindset problem, change it,” observed the court, according to NDTV.
The Union Public Service Commission, which conducts the exam, has been asked to issue a corrigendum notification and publicise the interim verdict so that “intent of the order is translated into effect”, the court said.
Justice Kaul questioned why the Centre was not granting permission to women candidates even after the Supreme Court’s order directing the Army to grant permanent commission to women, Live Law reported.
“Will the Army only act when a judicial order is passed? Not otherwise? We will do that if that is what you want,” the judge said.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told the court that women have now been granted permanent commission in the Army.
“No thanks to you! You kept on opposing it,” the court said in response.
Bhati noted that there were three routes of entry into the Army – the NDA, the Indian Military Academy and the Officers’ Training Academy.
To this, Justice Roy questioned why the Army was closing one mode of entry for women, although the other two were open. “It is not just a gender principle but discriminatory otherwise also,” he said.
In a landmark verdict in February 2020, the Supreme Court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission.
The Army had constituted a special selection board in September 2020 to screen women officers. The results were declared a month later. After this, some women who were not granted a permanent commission had moved the Supreme Court.
In response to their petition, the Supreme Court had held that the evaluation criteria for granting permanent commission to women officers systematically discriminated against them.
Subsequently, an Army selection board reconsidered the cases and granted permanent commission to 147 additional women. A total of 424 women have been granted permanent commission till now.