The Indian Army welcomes the Supreme Court’s order to the government to grant permanent commission to women in the force, but the time is not right to involve them in combat roles, General Officer Commanding-in-chief of Western Command Lieutenant General RP Singh said on Tuesday, the Hindustan Times reported.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered the Centre to grant permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army, respecting the 2010 order of the Delhi High Court in this regard. The court ruled that permanent commission must be given irrespective of the tenure of the women officers. The court also ruled that women officers can get “command and criteria” appointments in the Army on par with their male counterparts.

“We welcome the SC ruling to give women officers permanent commission,” Singh said during an interaction with reporters at the Western Command’s Investiture Ceremony in Dehradun on Tuesday. “We don’t have any issues or regrets on the same. However, as far as combat role for them is concerned, I think the right time for it has not come yet.”

Singh called women’s involvement in combat roles an evolutionary process. He said that women are already employed in wings related to combat. “We hope in the future they will get into more roles and contribute to the Indian Army.”

The Western Command chief presented 41 awards including 32 Sena Medals for gallantry, two Sena Medals for distinguished service and seven Vashisht Seva Medals to Army officers and soldiers, at the event in Dehradun. He also honoured 16 elite units of the Western Command for their professional excellence.

In December 2018, former Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had claimed that women are not ready for combat roles because Army men, who largely come from small villages, would not be willing to accept a female commander.

On Monday, the Supreme Court had rejected the Centre’s contention that “inherent physiological differences between men and women” make it difficult for women to assume command positions. The court said that the Centre’s note perpetuated sex stereotypes. “Arguments by the Centre founded on physical strength of men and women and grounds of motherhood, family etc violates equality,” the judgement said. “To cast aspersions on ability of women and their role and achievements in Army is an insult not only to women but also to Indian Army.”

Justice DY 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 had then reserved its verdict.