Not recruiting married women in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) arm of the Indian Army amounts to “hostile and 100 per cent discrimination”, the Delhi High Court said on Thursday. The observation by a bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar was made during the hearing of a PIL by a lawyer claiming that there was institutionalised discrimination against married women by not inducting them in the JAG service.
The court also questioned the government about the logic behind “ousting married women” from the JAG, the legal branch of the Army. “Today, women are fighter pilots and you say they (married women) are not fit for the JAG. What is the logic behind ousting married women? That is hostile discrimination. It is 100 per cent discrimination,” the bench said.
Advocate Charu Wali Khanna, appearing for the petitioner, said that unmarried women after joining the JAG were not allowed to marry. To this, the central government standing counsel Kirtiman Singh said the bar applied to unmarried men and women only during the nine to ten-month training period.
The Centre had to face tough questions on another PIL which claimed that only gainfully employed men were recruited in the Territorial Army (TA), the second line of defence after the regular Army. Both the PILs were heard together. The TA is an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency.
“Why are women not fit for the Territorial Army,” the court asked to which central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan, also appearing for the Army, said women were not recruited in the infantry of the TA, but other than that there was no bar.
The bench the asked, “Which are the positions in which women are working in the Territorial Army?” However, the lawyer did not have any answer to the query posed by the bench. The court directed the Army to file written submissions in both the matters by the next date of hearing on August 24.
Both the PILs have been filed by Kush Kalra who has sought a direction to the Centre for recuitment of married women law graduates in the JAG department like similarly-placed men.
The petitioner has alleged that “this discrimination on grounds of gender is violative of the fundamental right of equality before law, right not to be discriminated on the ground of sex, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, fundamental right to practice any profession and occupation and human rights of the women”.
He has also sought that eligibility conditions prohibiting the entry of married female candidates in the JAG department be declared as unconstitutional. His petition has also alleged “uneven distribution/allocation of seats for women” in recruitment into the JAG, as vacancies advertised for men were 10 and only four for women.