Updated: September 9, 2021 1:26:04 am
THE CENTRE told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it had decided to induct women for permanent commission in the armed forces through the National Defence Academy (NDA).
Conveying this to a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati sought status quo for the current year, saying it needs “policy changes, procedure, training infrastructure etc”.
Earlier, the court had allowed women candidates to sit for the NDA exams from the current year.
The bench, also comprising Justice M M Sundresh, said it would consider the plea for status quo this year “depending on what you are doing now, what is the proposal for the future, what still remains to be examined, what areas you are exploring”.
“We will see if more nudging is required or we are comfortable with your pace. But we must have some timelines. We do hope that the defence forces value the important role women are performing. You may go at a comfortable pace, but redressal must take place,” the bench said.
Adjourning the matter by two weeks to enable the Centre to file the “development plan”, the court said: “We are glad to note that the armed forces have taken the decision for induction of females into the NDA… The armed forces play an important role in the system, for forming an immensely essential function. We would not easily interfere in their roles and would rather want them to take a proactive approach towards gender equality, instead of the court stepping in”.
The court was hearing a petition seeking its intervention to allow eligible women candidates to appear for the NDA and Naval Academy Examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
Another step forward
In an interim order last month, the Supreme Court allowed women candidates to sit for the NDA entrance exam, saying the “policy decision” to bar them was “based on gender discrimination”. This followed its February 2020 order to grant permanent commission to women Short Service Commission officers in the Army.
At the last hearing, the court had said the policy to not allow women in NDA was “based on gender discrimination”.
On Wednesday, Bhati told the bench that she had “a rather delightful piece of news to share”. “Your lordship’s nudging has made a difference. The decision has been taken last evening at the highest level of the forces with all the three chiefs and the government that girls will be inducted for permanent commission through the NDA,” Bhati said, and sought time to file an affidavit to put it on record.
Bhati also submitted that the UPSC had decided to postpone this year’s exam from September to November.
Responding to the ASG’s submission, Justice Kaul said, “We were only nudging the authorities to do certain things themselves. After all, we know that they are best suited to evolve such changes. The court steps in when nothing has happened. It is not a very happy situation for us either. The armed forces are the most respected in the country. But sometimes their resistance cannot be dealt with well. They need to do more towards gender equality. A dynamic approach needs to be adopted”.
The bench said it was “conscious of the complexity of the armed services — where induction can take place, whether it can take place or not, in what time it can take place… we are not oblivious to this.” It said it was conscious that “reforms cannot happen in one day” and that “we only want progress to be made”.