The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to change its interim order allowing women to appear for the National Defence Academy examination from this year, reported Live Law. The court had given the interim order in August on a plea filed by lawyer Kush Kalra seeking permission for women candidates to appear for the exam.
This year’s examination is scheduled to be held on November 14.
In response to the interim order, the Union Ministry of Defence had earlier this month told the Supreme Court that women will be admitted to the National Defence Academy.
However, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati had requested the court to hold off admissions in the current academic year, citing the need for “policy, procedure, training and infrastructure changes”.
In an affidavit submitted to the court on Tuesday, the Centre had said that it would put in place a mechanism by May 2022 so that women candidates can appear for the examination.
However, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that it “gave hope to the girls” and therefore could not deny it to them now, reported NDTV.
“The armed forces deal with emergencies,” the court observed. “So I do not believe that armed forces response team will not be able to deal with the scenario.”
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai noted that the petitioner’s submission that exams for the National Defence Academy are held twice a year. So, allowing women to take the 2022 exams would mean that they could be given admission only in 2023, Live Law reported.
The court told the government that instead of allowing women candidates to appear for the exams next year, it should try to work out something else.
In the affidavit submitted on Tuesday, the Centre had told the court that the government has set up an expert group to examine the changes in curriculum, infrastructure, fitness training, accommodation facilities, among other things, needed to facilitate entry of women to the academy.
The expert group will finalise medical standards for admission taking into account various aspects like young age and nature of training required for induction of women cadets to the defence services, the defence ministry’s affidavit stated.
The ministry also said that prior experience from other pre-commissioning training academies suggested that “robust physical separation” of residential quarters of men and women candidates was needed before women are inducted into the academy. This process would include increasing bathroom and medical aid facilities, the defence ministry had said.
The ministry added that it would need to appoint gynecologists, sports medicine experts, counsellors, nursing staff and female attendants before the induction.
In his plea, Kalra had argued that the exclusion of women candidates from the National Defence Academy was not constitutionally justifiable and amounted to discrimination on the basis of gender.
During the proceedings in the case, the Supreme Court had criticised the Centre and the Indian Army for such discrimination and had asked to change the “mindset problem” about allowing women cadets in the academy.