The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Army who were excluded on grounds of fitness standards.
Selective fitness standards were "created by males for males" and thus discriminatory toward women officers, Justice DY Chandrachud observed in the verdict authored by him.
The verdict came on a batch of pleas which said that the Indian Army had not granted PC to "even 50 per cent of women officers" despite a Supreme Court judgment in Babita Puniya mandating the same. In February 2020, the top court in Babita Puniya had directed the Indian Army to grant women officers permanent commission on par with their male counterparts.
This ruling will impact those women officers who were denied PC in November 2020 based on non-compliance with Shape 1 Fitness standards. These women officers will now be entitled to continue as permanent commissioned force till they fulfill the Fitness criteria required to stay in service.
"Army says medical category has been applied by taking age-related factors into account. However, discrimination and exclusion is there in this application. When similarly aged male PC officers do not have to maintain SHAPE 1 Fitness now when granted PC earlier," Justice Chandrachud said while reading out the verdict.
The Court dismissed the Centre's argument that such additional standards were put in place because the usual upper limit of granting 250 permanent commissions annually was breached in light of the top court's Babita Puniya verdict.
"Applying this ceiling is to bypass the route for women officers. The process by which women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers were considered for PC was based on belated application of the Babita Punia verdict. Finest women officers have been ignored on the specious grounds that their awards and merit was on 5th and 10th year of service," the top court said.
"Some look harmless but it's a patriarchal reflection of our society. It is not correct to say that women serve in the army when the real picture is different. The superficial face of Equality does not stand true to the principles enshrined in the Constitution," it added.
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