At a turning point for the Indian military, the Supreme Court said today that female army officers can hold command positions on par with male officers, and claimed that the government's arguments against it were "discriminatory," "disturbing," and stereotypical. The judgment must be implemented within three months.
Simply described, a woman, like her male counterparts, can rise to the rank of colonel and higher because of her merits.
In the rank of colonel, an officer takes over a substantive command and is commissioned to take over our independent tasks. A colonel commands a battalion, which typically consists of 850 men. An officer who is successful in this position could technically advance to the top ranks of the army, although female officers are currently not included in combat weapons such as infantry, artillery or tank corps.
The Supreme Court said that even women who have served in the Army Short Service Commission (SSC) for more than 14 years can have the option of a permanent commission. "We see no reason not to provide a permanent commission to those who have been in service for more than 14 years," the court said, noting that the Centre's policy of only considering women under 14 years of age has a " fundamental error "shows constant commission. The directive must apply equally to all female officials, regardless of years of service, the court said.
The court said the army could not differentiate between men and women by suppressing the apparent gender bias that has been propagated for years.
"It is against their dignity and against the country to voice gender issues. It is time that female officials are not tied to their male counterparts," the court said.
It also rejected the Centre's arguments about physiological limitations and "social norms" because it had refused to keep female officials on permanent terms, and called it unsettling.
"Physiological characteristics of women are unrelated to their rights. The mindset must change," said judges DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi in their landmark decision. It was said to be irrational and against the right to equality to give women a command in the army.
The government had informed the Supreme Court that "troops are not yet mentally trained to accept female officers as commanders of units" because they "are predominantly from rural areas."
"Women work shoulder to shoulder with men. The center's submission is based on gender discrimination and stereotypes. Army officers brought laurels to the county," said the Supreme Court, referring to female officers who would have made the country proud.
The court found that the petitioners had counteracted the government by arguing about women's physical abilities, base composition, and psychological realities. These "must be rejected with the contempt they deserve," said the judges.
Currently, female officials can work for the Short Service Commission for 10 to 14 years. Female officers may join the Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Education Corps, Advocate General, Engineers, Signals, Intelligence, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering branches.
There is no way to allow women in combat roles such as infantry, armored, mechanized infantry, aviation, and artillery.
The Indian Air Force and Navy also place a permanent order on female officers, although both have opened some combat roles for women. The Air Force allows women to serve as officers in flight and ground duty. IAF Short Service Commission (SSC) officials fly helicopters, transport planes, and now even fighter jets.
In the Navy, female officers who have been accepted by SSC are approved in the areas of logistics, law, observers, air traffic control, reconnaissance pilots and the naval armaments inspectorate.