SC allows women to appear for NDA exam; criticizes Army
The Supreme Court on Wednesday passed an interim order allowing women candidates to appear for the National Defence Academy (NDA) examination. The SC also slammed the Indian Army for its policy decision to not allow women to appear for the exam, saying the decision is based on "gender discrimination." The court further maintained that admissions will be subject to its final order.
The SC was hearing a plea filed by lawyer Kush Kalra seeking permission for women candidates to appear for the NDA exam. The plea said the categorical exclusion of eligible female candidates to join the NDA is done simply based on sex. Therefore, it violates the Fundamental Right of Equality before the Law and Equal Protection of the law, the plea argued.
Further, the petition stated that the exclusion of women from an opportunity to enrol and train in a premier training institute of the Indian Armed Forces will become a hurdle for women officers in their career advancement.
However, in its affidavit, the Centre said the NDA is only one of the various modes of entry for recruitment in the armed forces. Hence, it denied any violation of fundamental rights. "Training at the NDA does not give any automatic advantage to male cadets over their counterparts from other training establishments/institutions. It has no bearing on the future career advancement prospects," it said.
The Centre pointed out that an average of 1,470 officers are commissioned in the Army, which includes 670 officers from the Indian Military Academy and NDA apart from the Officers Training Academy (OTA) where both men and women officers are commissioned through UPSC/non-UPSC modes. 453 officers (men and women) are commissioned as Short Service Commissioned officers through SSC (Non-Technical) and SSC (Technical) through UPSC.
Incidentally, the petitioner recalled the SC's landmark judgment last year directing the Centre to grant Permanent Commission and command posting to all women officers in the Army. The SC had also termed it "discriminatory" to not allow women for Permanent Commission. Earlier, the SC had said that medical fitness criteria for women to get Permanent Commission in the Army are "arbitrary" and "irrational."