The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that administrative will and “change of mindset” are required before women can be given permanent commission in the Army, PTI reported. The top court made the observation while hearing a plea against giving women permanent commission.
On Tuesday, the court had criticised the Centre for submissions it made as to why women cannot be given permanent commission in the Army. The government on Wednesday sought to clarify its position, the Hindustan Times reported. “Women should not strive to be equal to men,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said. “They are in fact way above men.”
The Centre made the submissions in a plea by the defence ministry challenging a 2010 judgment of the Delhi High Court, which had ruled that short service commissioned women officers in the Army and Air Force should be granted permanent commission. The Centre put forward a proposal that short-service commissioned women officers with up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commission.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Centre, argued that there was no discrimination between men and women in the Armed Forces. He added that during combat the situations are different and different physical standards of men and women are a reality.
The Centre had submitted a written note to the Supreme Court. It said: “Inherent physiological differences between men and women preclude equal physical performance resulting in lower physical standards and hence the physical capacity of women officers in the Indian Army remain a challenge for command of units.”
Justice Chandrachud then remarked that even if women are less fit for combat roles, these are a tiny fraction of roles in the Armed Forces and women can thus be given permanent commission in other roles. “Two things are required to rid any form of gender discrimination – administrative will and change in mindset,” he added.
The court then reserved its verdict. On February 11, the court will hear similar cases concerning the Air Force and the Navy.
On Tuesday, the government had claimed in court that since the Army rank and file is predominantly male and drawn from the rural areas, soldiers are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command.
The Narendra Modi-led government had approved permanent commission for women in all 10 branches of the Army in March last year. Under the scheme, the women officers should indicate within four years of service whether they want permanent commission.
In 2010, the Delhi High Court had ruled that compulsory retirement for women officers after 14 years was unconstitutional in all three services of the military – Army, Air Force and Navy.