The Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Indian Army for not allowing women candidates in the National Defence Academy (NDA), Sainik Schools and other military institutions and called out the “regressive mindset”.
“Don't do tokenism. Why do you need the judiciary to pass orders every time,” asked the Supreme Court, slamming the Indian Army for not giving opportunities to women.
“You're compelling the judiciary to keep on granting orders. It's better that you (Army) structure it than inviting court orders. We are permitting the girls who have approached the court to sit for the NDA examination because we will be considering the larger issue,” said the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
A division bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy passed the interim order in a writ petition filed by Kush Kalra seeking permission for women candidates to appear for the NDA exam.
While issuing the order, the court criticised the Army for not permitting women to take part in the NDA exam. When the Army’s counsel submitted that it is a policy decision, the top court said that the said policy decision was based on “gender discrimination".
According to the petitioner, the eligible and willing female candidates are being denied the opportunity of entry to the National Defence Academy on the basis of their sex, thereby systematically and categorically excluding eligible female candidates the opportunity to train at the premier joint training institute of the Indian Armed Forces which, at a later point of time, becomes a hurdle in the career advancement opportunities for Female Officers in the Armed Forces.
The plea has stated that the act of the respondents to categorically exclude eligible and willing female candidates from appearing for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination over the years, solely on the ground of sex, is a violation of the Fundamental Right of Equality before the Law and Equal Protection of the law.
On its part, the Centre in an affidavit said the NDA is only one of the various modes of entries for recruitment in the Indian Armed Forces, pointing out that in the Army, on an average 1,470 officers are commissioned which includes 670 officers from Indian Military Academy (IMA) and NDA apart from Officers Training Academy (OTA) where both men and women officers are commissioned through UPSC and non-UPSC modes. Apart from this, on an average, 453 officers (men and women) are commissioned as Short Service Commissioned officers through SSC (Non-Technical) and SSC (Technical) through UPSC.
The affidavit said, “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 suggested that choice of training at any equivalent training academy cannot be a violation amounting to discrimination based on gender under Article 14, 15, 16 or 19 of the Constitution.