The Supreme Court on Friday pulled up the Indian Army for its “arbitrary” attitude towards promoting to the rank of colonel women officers who have been granted permanent commissions in accordance with an earlier judgment, reported Live Law.

The court said that the norms adopted by the Army have done a “disservice to the need to provide justice to women officers who had fought a long and hard battle to receive just entitlements as their male counterparts”.

In a February 2020 judgement, the Supreme Court had ordered the Centre to grant permanent commissions to women officers in the Indian Army. This was after 72 women officers had approached the Supreme Court as they were denied permanent commissions on various grounds.

A permanent commission means a career in the Army till retirement, while the Short Service Commission is for 10 years. At the end of 10 years, those who got a Short Service Commission can apply for a permanent commissions, and if they are not selected for it, they can choose a four-year extension.

In November 2021, the court had warned the Army that it would initiate contempt proceedings if it failed to grant permanent commissions to 11 women officers in accordance with the 2020 judgement, reported Bar and Bench. Since then, the court has been hearing contempt applications as well as petitions by women Army officers.

The women officers in their present application filed last year had complained that the Special Selection Board 3 has not met for 18 months despite the March 2021 judgement directing the Army to grant all benefits, including promotion and financial benefits to the women officers within three months, reported the Hindustan Times. The SSB-3 empanels officers as colonel.

They also alleged discrimination as the SB-3 was convened for male officers and those much junior in seniority to the women officers were getting empaneled.

At Friday’s hearing, Senior Advocate Huzefa Ahmadi and Senior Advocate V Mohana, representing women officers, asserted that the entire profile of women should be considered for permanent commissions.

Attorney General Venkatramani and Senior Advocate Colonel R Balasubramanium, representing the Union defence ministry, relied on the policy framework and the Supreme Court’s March 2021 order that had laid common benchmarks for men and women short service commission officers to be considered for permanent commissions, reported the Hindustan Times.

The court, however, said: “The cutoff was applied arbitrarily in the present case to ostensibly equate the women officers to their male counterparts.”

It said that the court has found an “attitude” to reject the valid entitlements of women officers.

It directed the Army to conduct a fresh exercise within 14 days to reconsider the case of nearly 136 women officers for promotion.