The Indian Army has approved the promotion of five women officers to the rank of colonel (time scale), the Ministry of Defence said in a release on Monday.

This is the first time that women officers serving with the Corps of Signals, Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers and the Corps of Engineers have been promoted to the rank of colonel, the ministry said. Earlier, the rank was applicable for women officers only in the Army Medical Corps, Judge Advocate General and the Army Education Corps.

The five officers who received the promotion are Sangeeta Sardana, Sonia Anand, Navneet Duggal, Reenu Khanna and Ritcha Sagar. All of them currently hold the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Army officers are given the rank of time scale colonels after they complete 26 years in service.

Lieutenant colonels become eligible to be promoted as colonels after 16 years to 18 years of service. However, they do not get promoted at times due to lack of vacancies, or if the Army’s promotional board does not clear their names. Such officers are made time scale colonels after they complete 26 years in service, according to The Print.

“Combined with the decision to grant permanent commission to women officers from a majority of branches of the Indian Army, this step defines the Indian Army’s approach towards a gender-neutral Army,” the defence ministry said in its release.

In a landmark verdict in February last year, the Supreme Court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted a permanent commission, rejecting the Centre’s stand of their physiological limitations as being based on “stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”.

The Army had constituted a special selection board in September 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. After the order, 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.