In a landmark judgement and a major boost to women serving in the defence services, the Delhi High Court today directed the government to allow grant of permanent commission to them, saying they "deserve better from the government" which had shown reluctance in treating them at par with their male counterpart.
Delivering a verdict on a batch of petitions filed by more than sixty serving and retired lady officers, a bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said they would be treated equally with male officers but turned down their plea of being allowed in combative operation.
"There were also male officers performing the same task. If the male officers can be granted permanent commission while performing those tasks, there is no reason why equally capable women officers cannot be granted PC. It is not a charity being sought by the women officers but enforcement of their own Constitutional rights," the court said.
It turned down the plea of the government that PC can be allowed only for future recruitment and the benefit cannot be given retrospectively for the serving and retired lady officers who had approached the court.
"These women officers have served the Armed Forces of the country well in the areas of operation they were recruited for and have worked in this capacity for 14 to 15 years. They deserve better from the respondents (government)," the court said.
"There is no reason why these persons who have knocked the door of the court should be deprived of the benefit and the benefit extended only in future for grant of PC to women," the court said. More
Justice Kaul, who has authored important judgements on M F Husain and ban on-screen smoking, began today's verdict by quoting American political adviser Will Henry who had said that 'Nature gave women too much power, the law gives them too little' and hoped after this order the government would give larger participation to lady officer in armed forces.
The lady officers were deprived of certain benefits and privileges, which would have been ensured to them in case of grant of PC like pension, ex-serviceman status, medical facilities.
The court made it clear that all the lady officers, who had approached it but retired during the pendency of the case, would be given all the consequential benefits to them.
However, no lady officer from the Navy had approached the court.
A group of serving women officers from Army and Airforce has moved a petition demanding equal service rights at par with their male counterparts.
Currently, women are inducted in the Army as officers under Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years whereas their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.
Following the High Court’s earlier direction to treat women officers at par with their male counterparts in armed forces, the government had in September last year taken a policy decision to grant permanent commission to those women officers who would be recruited in future for the post of Judge Advocate General and education departments.
It was decided that the benefits would not be extended to serving women officers.
The direction came on petitions filed by women officers, through counsel Rekha Palli, seeking a direction to the Centre to stop alleged discrimination against them in the matter of grant of permanent commission.
Meanwhile, women officers of the armed forces hailed the judgement saying they
can now join and continue like their male counterparts in the defence
"This will definitely change things in the way (future) to come. This
will go a long way in changing things and outlook of women in the
army," Wing Commander Pushpanjali said.
"It was very important for us and we feel great on this victory because
it is not only for the future of lady officers who are there in the
army, it is also for those who would be joining the army," an army lady
officer told to a news channel here.
Showing gratefulness to the judiciary, another woman officer, Seema, said the judgement has restored their faith in the system.
"First of all I am thankful to the judiciary. It (judgement) has
restored the faith in our system. I am feeling so great about being
a woman," she remarked.
Rekha Palli, the advocate who argued the case for the women officers, described the judgement as a major victory for her.
"For me it's a major victory because I could see nothing except gender
bias in permanent commission not being granted to lady officers," she
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