Five months after the Supreme Court ordered that women be allowed Permanent Commission (PC) in all non-combat streams in the Army, the government issued a formal sanction on Thursday.
Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said women will now be allowed PC in all 10 streams.
“Ministry of Defence has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers in the Indian Army, paving the way for empowering women officers to shoulder larger roles in the organisation,” Col Anand said.
“The order specifies grant of PC to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) Women Officers in all 10 streams of the Indian Army,” the spokesperson said.
Women have so far been allowed PC in only the Judge Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC). With the government’s sanction, women will now be eligible for PC also in Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps.
“In anticipation, the Army Headquarters had set in motion a series of preparatory actions for conduct of the Permanent Commission Selection Board for affected Women Officers,” Anand said, adding that the “Selection Board will be scheduled as soon as all affected SSC Women Officers exercise their option and complete requisite documentation”.
The Army, Anand said, “is committed to provide equal opportunities to all personnel including women officers to serve the nation”.
As of January 1, there were a total 1,648 women officers in the 10 streams. Army Aviation had the lowest representation of women officers (24 officers; 3.46 per cent of the stream); JAG had the highest (103; 40.23 per cent).
Additionally, there were 1,185 women (21.25 per cent) medical officers in the Army, and 170 women dental officers (making up a quarter of the Army’s dental officers), according to data given to Rajya Sabha by Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik on March 2. In July 2019, Naik had stated that women comprised just 3.8 per cent of the Army’s strength.
In its February judgment throwing open the doors for women to be considered eligible for PC in all 10 non-combat streams of the Army, including rising to take up command positions, the Supreme Court had said that the expression “in various staff appointments only” mentioned in the government’s February 2019 communication “shall not be enforced”.
It had also said that “at the stage of opting for the grant of PC, all the choices for specialisation shall be available to women officers on the same terms as for the male SSC officers”, and that “women SSC officers shall be entitled to exercise their options for being considered for the grant of PCs on the same terms as their male counterparts”.
A few days later, Army Chief General M M Naravane had described it as a “very enabling judgment”, and said that “it (the judgment) brings out a sense of clarity and purpose to gainfully employ officers for better efficiency of the organisation”.
On February 25, 2019, the government had stated in a notification “consideration of grant of Permanent Commission to SSC Women Officers in the eight arms/services in Indian Army”, and mentioned “Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Army Air Defence, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and Intelligence”.
PC for women officers in JAG and AEC streams had been opened in 2008.