There cannot be gender discrimination in granting permanent commission to women in Navy, Supreme Court
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There cannot be gender discrimination in granting permanent commission to women in Navy, Supreme Court

Shruti Mahajan

The Supreme Court today ruled that there cannot be any gender discrimination in granting permanent commission to women in Navy after the lifting of the statutory bar on inducting women in the Navy.

The judgment rendered by the Bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud goes to say that it would be plainly discriminatory if women officers are not treated at par with the male counterparts since the induction of women in the Naval services was lifted.

Women can sail with equal efficiency as men can, the Court went on to observe, rejecting arguments based on the physiological differences between men and women.

A hundred and one excuses are no answer to the constitutional entitlement to dignity, which attachesto every individual irrespective of gender, to fair and equal conditions of work and to a level playing field. A level playing field ensures that women have the opportunity to overcome their histories of discrimination with the surest of responses based on their competence, ability and performance.
Supreme Court

The Court said that to deny women officers an opportunity for the permanent commission would result in a serious miscarriage of justice to those SSC women officers who have served the nation and would be plain discriminatory.

To deprive serving women officers of the opportunity to work as equals with men on PCs in the Indian Navy is plainly discriminatory. Furthermore, to contend that women officers are illsuited to certain avocations which involve them being aboard ships is contrary to the equal worth of the women officers who dedicate their lives to serving in the cause of the nation.

Supreme Court

Therefore, the Court has directed that all SSC women officers in law and logistics cadre, and the SSC women officers who had moved the Delhi High Court, be granted Permanent Commission.

The application for Permanent Commission will be considered based on availability of vacancies and recommendations of the chief of naval staff, the Court has said.

All women officers whose SSC came to end before 2008 would be deemed to have been considered for Permanent Commission as a one time measure. Further, all the service of women officers who are not in service, and who were denied Permanent Commission, shall be deemed pensionable service.

The Court added that women officers in the Commodore position shall be entitled pensionary benefits and Rs 25 lakh compensation each.

The Court has, directed the Centre to take steps to grant the permanent commission to the serving SSC women officers in the Navy within a period of three months.

The Court was hearing the Indian Navy’s appeal challenging the 2015 verdict of the Delhi High Court that had allowed the grant of Permanent Commission for women in the Navy (Union of India & Ors.vs. Lt. Cdr. Annie Nagaraj & Ors etc. etc)..

The Centre had opened up the avenue for permanent commission for women officers in 2008. However, this decision was made be applicable only prospectively and excluded the then serving women officers. This was termed arbitrary by the High Court.

The Centre's appeal challenging this verdict was filed in October 2015, a little under a month after the Delhi High Court pronounced its verdict in September that year in favour of 17 women officers who had moved for the grand of permanent commission, after their short service commission (SSC) ended in 2006.

Orders in the matter were reserved last month.

In another ruling securing gender parity in the forces, In February this year the Supreme Court paved the way for the grant of permanent commission for women officers in the Indian Army, in the case of The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & Ors. The Court, thereby, ruled in favour of permanent commission for women in the Army in all fields except combat roles.

The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi had ordered that steps to comply with this judgment be undertaken within three months' time.

Relying on this verdict, written submissions were also made, as the Court wrapped up its hearings, for the grant of permanent commission to women navy officers, arguing that the two areas involved similar issues.

These written submissions further asserted that the grant of Permanent Commission to woman Naval Officers is "not a welfare measure" but rather that "It is about being fair, just and reasonable and allowing the gender equality in true spirit and purport."

Read Judgment:

UOI vs Lt Cdr Annie Nagaraja & Ors.pdf
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