The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre to make arrangements that would allow women to compete for the National Defence Academy (NDA) exams slated for November this year. "We gave the girls hope with our order, cannot deny them that hope now. The women's admission cannot be postponed, the top court said.
The bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai said it would be difficult to accept the Centre's contention that it needed time till May 2022 to accommodate women at the academy in Pune.
"It would be difficult for us to accept the submissions of the Centre in view of the aspirations of the candidates willing to take the exam. The Armed Forces is capable of handling more difficult and emergent situations both at the border and in the country. We are sure such training will come handy here," the bench noted.
This is the first time women cadets will be allowed in the NDA, an all-male bastion since its inception in 1955. The Supreme Court on August 18 had issued an interim order directing the Centre to induct women in the NDA observing that the policies restricting their entry into the elite institution was based on "gender discrimination".
The Centre on Monday filed an affidavit before the apex court submitting that women would be allowed to appear for the entrance exams of the NDA from May 2022 onwards. The defence ministry had also outlined its key plans to accommodate the women's induction next year which included formulating new medical standards for women; revising a women-centric curriculum and infrastructural changes among other things.
Aspirations raised cannot be whittled down: SC to Centre
The apex court dismissed the Centre's concern that it would be unable to accommodate women this year. Justice Kaul observed that the mental block must be removed and women's aspirations which had been raised because of the August 18 order could not be whittled down now.
When the Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the defence ministry, said that the court's order would put the forces in a "tight position", Justice Kaul said that the "armed forces have dealt with far tighter situations, we are sure you will be able to solve it."
"The armed forces deal with emergencies. So, I don't believe that the armed forces response team will not be able to deal with the scenario...," Justice Kaul added.
"Let's see how many women apply for the exams this year. Not many may have enrolled for the exam this time. So numbers might be smaller. So instead of skipping the exam, try to work out something for them," Justice Kaul suggested.
"What answer would we have for the students who are on the anvil of taking the exam? Don't ask us to effectively vacate the order. You go on with the exercise," he added.
The court's direction came on a plea filed by Kush Kalra who sought the admission of women in the country's premier defence academy in Pune.