Slamming the “sexist bias” that appears to have “blocked the progress of women”, a Delhi High Court bench on Friday said women officers serving in the Navy should be offered permanent commissions once they complete their short service stints.
Hearing six separate pleas filed by 19 women officers in the education, logistics and ATC branches of the Navy, who had completed the 14 years of their Short Service Commission, the bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice Najmi Waziri said “courts would frown upon any endeavour which tries to restrain progress of women”. A detailed judgment is likely to be released by Monday.
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The officers had approached the High Court after their counterparts in the Army and Air force were granted relief on the same issue in 2010 by another bench.
“We must say that women are here to stay,” said the bench, adding that women were “walking shoulder to shoulder with men in all spheres”.
To highlight their stance, the bench also quoted a couplet written by well-known 20th century poet Majaz Lakhnawi. “Tere maathe pe ye anchal bahut khoob hai, lekin tu is anchal se ek parcham bana leti to achcha tha (The veil on your head is beautiful, but it would be better if you made a flag from it),” the bench said.
In their plea filed through Senior Advocate Rekha Palli, the officers claimed that the decision of the Defence Ministry to offer Permanent Commission only to male officers “clearly smacks of gender discrimination”.
The officers had also challenged a 2008 decision of the Navy to grant Permanent Commission only to women who joined after that year and that too only in the Education, Law and Naval Architecture branches.
The petitioners said they had received appropriate training and had been working as SSC officers in other departments for several years.
Further, the officers argued that after the Delhi High Court judgment of 2010, the Defence Ministry and the Naval Administration “ought to have themselves taken steps to reinstate and grant permanent commission to the officers of the Indian Navy”.