Updated: September 23, 2021 6:06:18 am
The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to accede to the government’s request to allow women candidates to sit for the National Defence Academy entrance exam only in May 2022, and reiterated its earlier direction to permit them to take the exams scheduled in November this year.
Entrance exams to the NDA are held twice a year. In an affidavit filed in the court, the Defence Ministry had asked for time until May 2022 to issue the notification allowing women to sit for the NDA exams so that the Academy — which until now enrolled only men — would have enough time to make changes, including in infrastructure and curriculum, to accommodate the women cadets.
On Wednesday, a two-judge bench headed by Justice S K Kaul did not accede to the government’s request for more time, stating that the court had, in its interim order in August, allowed women candidate to take this year’s exams in November and did not want to belie their hopes.
“I have fully understood your affidavit. We appreciate your endeavour to put before us different areas of concerns. You have referred to fitness test, accommodation, curriculum changes and so on…But what we are finding it difficult to accept is to postpone everything by a year. Having given a hope to women to take exam in November, we don’t want to belie that hope”, Justice Kaul said.
“This is the transition phase, we don’t want to postpone the transition. This exam may not give the best results. But we are looking at the future,” observed Justice Kaul.
The bench also comprising Justice B R Gavai said in its order that it had given a thought to the matter, and the difficulties expressed by the armed services. “What effectively would mean by the submission of armed forces is, ‘no jam today, jam tomorrow’. It will be difficult for us to accept that position, the aspirations of women having been arisen in view of the order, albeit subject to the final outcome of the petition. The armed forces having dealt with very difficult situations admirably, both in the border and in the country. To deal with emergencies is part of their training. We are sure they can deal with this emergency if it is so perceived…We would thus not like to effectively vacate the order passed, but keep the manner pending.”
The court was hearing a plea by Advocate Kush Kalra seeking its intervention to allow eligible women candidates to appear for the NDA exam.
Initially, the government had termed the decision to restrict NDA to only male candidates as a matter of policy, but the court refused to accept this and said the policy “is based on gender discrimination”.
Subsequently, the government agreed to allow women candidates to sit for NDA but prayed for time till May 2022 so as to put the necessary arrangements in place.
On Wednesday, appearing for the Ministry, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati conveyed to the court that the ministry has already set up a Study Group to effect the necessary changes, and that all arrangements would be in place by May 2022. She urged the court to grant exemption for the current year.
Appearing for the petitioner, Senior Advocate Chinmoy Pradip said allowing women to take the May 2022 exams would mean they will be admitted only by 2023.
Turning down the government’s prayer, Justice Kaul said, “We appreciate your problems. I’m sure you people are capable of finding solutions. Let us see the results. The planning can go on.”
The court added, “We will give you latitude, but don’t ask us to vacate the order. Let us see the results. Let us see how many women will get in. We are not disposing of the petition”.
The court will now hear the matter in the third week of January 2022.
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