The Supreme Court has asked the defence ministry to set its house in order in response to a petition by women officers of the Indian Army who alleged that they faced discrimination in promotions, Live Law reported on Friday.
A bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala was hearing a petition by women officers who alleged that Army selection boards for promotions were refusing to consider their latest annual confidential reports or performance evaluation reports.
The petitioners also alleged that Army authorities were deliberately assigning women officers to lead contingents that are usually headed by officers who are junior in rank, The Tribune reported.
The Supreme Court asked the defence ministry to respond to these allegations.
“We are putting you on notice,” the top court told Additional Solicitor General KM Nagaraj, who was appearing for the Centre. “If this is not rectified, we will have to come down heavily on you. Because it appears ex facie that there has been an attempt to go around our order. We will now take it very seriously.”
Chief Justice Chandrachud said that the court could issue a notice of contempt if authorities did not address the concerns raised by the petitioners. “Now, we are giving you a last opportunity to set your house in order,” he said. “Otherwise, we are going to haul you up.”
Nagaraj told the court that he would file an affidavit explaining the government’s stand. The case will be heard again in two weeks.
In a February 2020 judgement, the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to grant Permanent Commission to women officers in the Indian Army.
A Permanent Commission means a career in the Army till retirement, while the Short Service Commission is for ten years. At the end of ten years, those who got Short Service Commission can apply for a Permanent Commission, and if they are not selected for it, they can choose a four-year extension.
The Army had constituted a special selection board in September 2020 to screen women officers. The results for this were declared in November 2020.
A total of 72 women officers had approached the Supreme Court after they were denied Permanent Commission on various grounds. The court had said that Permanent Commission should be granted to women Short Service Commissions Officers who score 60% marks in their assessment, meet the Army’s medical criteria and obtain vigilance and disciplinary clearance.