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NEW DELHI: A day after the Centre’s assertion on physiological limitations of women officers and changed battlefield scenario as reasons for not granting them command posts in the Army, the Supreme Court on Wednesday told the government that there are many non-combat services like NCC and Sainik Schools in which they could be accommodated.
Responding to the various grounds raised by the Centre for convincing the court that women officers are not fit for command posts, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said battlefield and combat operation is a very small portion of Army services and even if it is assumed that women are less fit for combat roles, there are other areas within Army where women officers could be accommodated.
“If you have the will and change of mindset, it can be done,” the bench said. It said battlefield rigour is not there in giving command posting in NCC and running of Sainik Schools and the Centre can consider to incorporate women officers there.
Advocate Meenakshi Lekhi, who is pressing for command posting on behalf of a batch of women officers, told the bench that there was no lack of political will as the Prime Minister had in 2018 announced permanent commission for women officers in other branches of the armed forces, apart from legal and education. She said there is lack of administrative will.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Centre, said the government is agreeable for permanent commission (PC) to women officers who have served up to 14 years in Army but those above 14 years cannot be considered. He said those above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without PC and those above 20 years of service would be released with pensionary benefits.
The bench, however, said there was delay on the part of government to take a policy decision on PC as the Delhi High Court had passed the order way back in 2010 but the decision was taken in 2019. The court said if the bar of 14 years is allowed, many officers on whose plea the HC passed the order will not get relief as they would have completed more than 14 years of service.
Though the bench appreciated the manner in which Balasubramanian, who is himself a retired army officer, made submission to convince the court about nuances involved in the matter pertaining to permanent commission, it suggested that the government should not be averse to consider the plea of women officers for PC and all the officers would have been entitled to it if the HC verdict had been implemented in 2010.
“Why discriminate them. You should screen them for their suitability and fitness and then take a decision,” the bench said and reserved its order.

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