In a society “created by males for males,” the Supreme Court said as it ruled that the Army’s evaluation criteria for granting permanent commission to women short service officers is "arbitrary" and "irrational".
Allowing the pleas of a group of women short service officers seeking permanent commission, a bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah concluded that the Army’s pattern of evaluation would lead to women being excluded from permanent commission “on grounds beyond their control”.
“This disproportionate impact is attributable to the structural discrimination against women,” the court said, adding that the methodology adopted for evaluation of their annual confidential reports and the application of “…rigorous medical standard at an advanced stage of their careers…disproportionately impacts them vis-à-vis their male counterparts”.
The court highlighted that “several of the women officers before the court had won several awards. Several had done well on overseas assignments.” Furthermore, even those who had excelled in sports events were ignored.
The SC has directed the Army to consider the grant of the permanent commission for women officers within a month, after following due process.
"The question of evaluating on merit does not arise. Officers will be considered for permanent commission subject to disciplinary and vigilance clearance," the top court said.
In February 2020, the Supreme Court in a landmark ruling had directed the government to ensure women short service officers are given permanent commission in the Army, including command positions. The apex court had then called the government’s arguments "discriminatory", "disturbing," and “based on stereotypes.”
The court had also issued a direction that within three months, all serving short service commission women officers have to be considered for permanent commission, regardless of their years of service.
The women officers had alleged in their plea that the procedures for grant of permanent commission is “vitiated with arbitrariness, unfairness and unreasonableness”.
“Women who have not been granted permanent commission have not come before us for charity, but for their rights,” the top court said.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)