Guwahati: Supreme Court on Wednesday slammed the Indian Army for not allowing women to take part in National Defence Academy (NDA) entrance exams. The apex court called the Army’s “policy decision” gender discrimination.
Therefore, the court allowed women to take the NDA exam scheduled for September 5. The Apex Court says that admissions will be subject to the final orders of the court.
According to report published in NDTV, the court slammed a “mindset problem” when it comes to equal service opportunities for men and women in the country’s armed forces, and warned the government “you better change”.
The court also expressed hope that today’s order would persuade the Army to initiate that change of its own accord, rather than be forced to change because of a directive from the judiciary.
“This is a mindset problem. You (the government) better change it… don’t force us to pass orders,” the top court said, adding, “This policy decision is based on gender discrimination. We direct the respondents to take a constructive view of the matter in view of the judgement of this court.”
“The endeavour is to persuade the Army to do things itself… We would prefer if the Army did somethings itself, rather than us passing orders,” the top court added.
A division bench of Justice SK Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy expressed displeasure over women continuing to be denied equal opportunities despite various verdicts by the top court on the matter, including a landmark ruling by Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi in February last year.
“Why are you continuing in this direction? Even after Justice Chandrachud’s judgement expanding the horizons and extending Permanent Commission in the Army to women? This is unfounded… We are finding it absurd!” a displeased Justice Kaul asked of the Additional Solicitor General.
The centre had argued that the government’s recruitment policy was not discriminatory and that there were a wide number of ways in which women could apply.
The court was responding to a PIL that argued that the categorical exclusion of eligible female candidates from the NDA was unconstitutional and done entirely on the basis of their sex.
Men recruited through the NDA exam are presently granted permanent commission in India’s armed forces; women candidates, currently however, are recruited as Short Service Commission Officers before being considered for a permanent commission at a later stage of their careers.
Last year – in watershed moment – the Supreme Court said women officers in the Indian Army could get command positions on par with their male colleagues.
The court slammed the government’s “discriminatory” and “disturbing” arguments, which it said were based on stereotype, and also said that permanent commissions would be available to all women, regardless of their years of service.
The government had then told the Supreme Court that “troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units” since they are “predominantly drawn from a rural background”.
“To cast aspersions on gender is an affront to their dignity and to the country. Time has come that women officers are not adjunct to their male counterparts,” the court replied, adding, “Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change.”