Several women Army officers who have have not been selected for permanent commission in the recently held special selection board for short service commission, women officers have alleged that there was a lack of transparency about the criteria of selection and that the results have left them “shocked”.
Four women officers of the rank of Lt Colonel approached The Indian Express, on condition of anonymity, and expressed their disappointment over the result of the screening board. These officers belong to different branches of the Army.
“We have an excellent career track record, have done outstandingly well for two decades now and were looking forward to the Army implementing the Supreme Court judgment awarding permanent commission to women officers. However, when the results came out on November 19, we were left shocked to see that many deserving officers have not been granted permanent commission,” said one woman officer.
All officers alleged that their letters to the Military Secretary’s branch regarding the manner in which the selection was to be made for permanent commission went unanswered.
“We wrote to the MS branch in August 2020 asking for the details of the process to be followed but we received no reply. We do not understand how those officers have been left out who are physically fit, have excellent grading in Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) and have no discipline or vigilance case pending against them,” said a Lt Colonel.
These officers also alleged that the correct figures of percentage of women officers selected for permanent commission has not been put out in public domain. “The percentages are much lower and an attempt is being made to show that 50 per cent or 70 per cent of women officers have been granted permanet commission,” an officer said.
The officers also alleged that soon after the SC verdict, vindictiveness was shown by the ‘system’ by putting out policy letters revising the physical fitness guidelines and making them tougher for women officers. Also, very senior in service officers were asked to report for Junior Command (JC) course. “Both these directions were later withdrawn but this shows the negative attitude towards us. We were also made to undergo medical examinations for the selection board under Covid conditions whereas no such requirement has been made for male officers who are being considered for promotion boards,” one officer said.
It is also alleged that some of those selected for permanent commission have not even passed basic professional courses like part B and part D examinations. The officers alleged a bias and said that despite having done some advanced courses, they were never utilised properly in service and are now being made to leave after having worked hard in the organisation at the cost of their family.
“We are not even being given time to prepare for retirement. We have to get so many things done like Ex-Servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) membership, CSD canteen card, ex-servicemen identity card, and many other administrative requirements. Yet the letter of the selection board says that those who have not been selected for permanent commission should prepare for their release from service immediately and not wait for any formal orders.
Is this how we are to be treated after 20 years and more in the Army?” asked an officer.
Out of 615 woman officers considered in the selection board, 422 were selected for permanent commission. The women officers who have been selected for permanent commission belong to branches like Engineers, Signals, Intelligence Corps, Army Air Defence, Army Aviation Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Service Corps and Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers.
Responding to the allegations, a senior Army officer in Army Headquarters said the No 5 Selection Board to screen short service commissioned women officers for permanent commission was carried out as per the provisions of Army Order 18 of 1988 and the same was communicated to all affected women officers.
“A Brigadier rank woman officer of the Army Medical Corps was also one of the members of the Selection Board to add transparency. In addition, women officers who were being considered in the board were permitted to witness the proceedings.”
The board went through a deliberate and time-tested process of selecting suitable officers for permanent commission. Consequent to the board, 422 out of 615 have been found fit.
On November 23 this year, the Supreme Court also expressed happiness that the Centre has implemented its verdict to consider granting permanent commission to women officers in the Army. “It is the victory of our nation that women aspire to achieve the highest pedestal. It is a great feeling even for us as judges,” the officer said in response.
He added that passing part B and part D exams was not criteria for selection as alleged by the woman officers.