Permanent commission to women in Navy: SC suspends order
SC suspended the Delhi HC order which ordered the Navy to provide permanent commission to all women serving as short-service commission officers. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told SC that the HC treating this case as a gender discrimation case was erronous. In reality, the Navy did not provide permanent commission to both men and women who are commissioned under the short service category.
The Navy allowed women to enlist only in the short service commission category and apply for permanent commission after six years whereas a male officer could be inducted right from the start. Women were offered 14-year temporary service stint after wich they were to retire. The defense forces provided retirement benefits after 20 years of service that women naval officers could not avail.
Women enlisted in 1927 in Indian military services as nurses and medical officers in 1943. They were permitted to join the armed forces on short-service commissions in 1992. Currently, Indian Air Force has 1,350 female officers; the army employs 1300 and navy 350 female officers.
Six pleas were filed in HC by women naval officers after a bench provided permanent-commission to women in army asking for the same rules get applied to the Navy. The officers questioned 2008 ruling of the Navy to cede Permanent Commission where officers from the Education, Law and Naval Architecture branches only got permanent term. It did not apply to those retired before 2008.
Under the 2010 permanent commission offered to army women officers, they were entitled to service beyond 14 years, after which they were made permanent and could get retirement pension and benefits. Also, they could aspire for posts higher than Lt. Colonel in the army.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat wrote to Defence Minister A.K. Antony asking him to intervene and end "discriminatory" employment practices in the Navy for women. She highlighted how the government's resolution of 2008 to allow a permanent commission to women officers of the three services was being executed in the Navy in a selected and biased way.
Most militaries globally enlist women. However, a few such as Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and Switzerland permit them to perform active combat roles.
The Indian Navy said it was keen to devise a policy to commission female officers to serve on warships. Indian Navy commodore BK Munjal commented that authorities were working on that proposal. The new warships would have different provisions and different rooms for lady officers, making way for lady officers to go on board ships.
The Delhi HC gave respite to female Navy officers as they can now "have full-term service in the Indian Navy and enjoy retirement benefits". The court said it frowned "upon any endeavor to block progress of women." Currently, women are banned on ships; this will have to be reviewed. The order came upon hearing six pleas filed by 19 women officers from the navy.