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Permanent commission grant for women officers delayed

Updated: Nov 21, 2020

Soumya Maniyar

8th November 2020

Representative image (Source- IANS)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on October 29 extended the deadline for implementation of its judgement to grant permanent commission (PC) to women SSC officers in the Indian Navy till December 31, 2020.

Maintaining that men and women Naval officers should be treated equally, the SC on March 17 cleared the permanent commission for women in the Navy and ordered the Centre to complete the necessary procedure within three months.

The Firstpost reported that a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra, and Indira Banerjee decided that the time to grant PC to Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of Indian Navy would be extended till December 31.

The top court had said, as reported by the Firstpost, "A hundred and one excuses are no answer to the constitutional entitlement to dignity, which attaches to every individual irrespective of gender, to fair and equal conditions of work and to a level playing field", thus, giving extra three months for the Centre to work on the remaining modalities.

According to Firstpost, on March 17- the top court, in their significant verdict, carved the path to grant permanent commission to women officers in the Indian Navy, ensuring that women have an equal playing field and opportunities to overcome 'histories of discrimination'.

In June, the Centre provided an application to extend the deadline for the same by six months, citing the COVID-19 pandemic, as reported by Firstpost. In the wake of the SC's verdict in February, the Centre has already started the process of granting permanent commission to all women SSC officers in the Indian Navy.

As reported by the Firstpost, the bench has also asked the Centre to provide Rs 25 lakhs as compensation for every four weeks to five Naval women officers- who were initially not considered for the PC besides the pensionary benefits- which had already been given to them.

The Firstpost reported that the SC also said that the battle for gender equality is about square up to the battles of the mind. Human civilization's history is well stocked with evidence where women have been denied the right to fair and equal treatment in the workplace.

The top court condemned the Centre's argument that certain sea-going duties are not well-suited for women officers. The SC said that such connotations are based on sex stereotypes wherein the male officers are more acceptable to certain responsibilities under the physiological characteristics and to accept it would be to 'approve the socially ascribed gender roles which a commitment to equal worth and dignity of every individual belies'.

According to the Firstpost, the Supreme Court had said it was needed to change the mindset of equality for women is to be achieved in the Armed Forces. This was referring to the verdict of February 17, in which PC was granted to the women officers in the Indian Army. The court also rejected the Centre's contention that certain roles such as sea-sailing duties are ill-suited for women officers because there is no return to the base, unlike in the Army and the Air forces.

The Firstpost reported that the SC had rescinded the forthcoming effect of the Centre's controversial September 2008 policy. This policy restricted the grant of permanent commission to specific categories only.

Setting aside the implementation guidelines issued on December 3, 2008, the top court had said, "The stipulation in the policy letter dated September 6, 2008, making it the prospective and restricting its application to specified cadres/branches of the Indian Navy shall not be enforced." It further added, "The statutory bar on the engagement or enrolment of women in the Indian Navy has been lifted to the extent envisaged in the notifications issued by the Union Government on October 9, 1991, and November 6, 1998, under Section 9(2) of the Navy Act of 1957."

The 1991 notification anticipated that the limitation on the admission or enrolment of women was raised for specified branches/cadres of the Navy, while the 1998 statement made women gave them the right to become officers in all the branches of the Indian Navy.

The SC stated that all the SSC officers in the education, law and logistics cadres of Navy, who are presently in service, shall be considered for the grant of PC. The top court also specified that the period of service beyond which the women officers shall be eligible to submit applications for PCs' grant should be the same as their male counterparts.

(Sources – The Firstpost, The Press Trust of India)

Edited by- Nivedita Dutta

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