NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday in an interim order has allowed women to take the National Defence Academy (NDA) exam scheduled for September 5 and has also slammed the Indian Army for the decisions that are based on “gender discrimination”.
A Bench of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice Hrishikesh Roy ordered that female candidates can sit for the NDA exam on September 5 but the admissions will be subject to the outcome of the petition. The Bench posted the matter for hearing on September 8 and asked the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) to advertise the court’s order widely.
The top court slammed the government and Army for not allowing women to take part in NDA exams. As Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati appearing for the government and Indian Army told the Bench that it’s a policy decision not to allow women to take the NDA exam, the Bench said that this policy decision is based on “gender discrimination”.
“It’s a policy decision which is based on gender discrimination. We direct the Centre and Army to take a constructive view of the matter…,” the Bench said expressing displeasure on “regressive mindset”.
As the ASG said there are three modes of entry in the Army- NDA, Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) and that women are permitted entry through OTA and IMA. To which the Bench asked why women’s entry is allowed only through two sources.
“And even if it is a matter of policy, you are allowing women’s entry through two sources. Why should you say the one more additional source of entry is closed for women? It is not just a gender principle but discriminatory otherwise also,” it added.
Don’t compel judicial intervention all the time, said the apex court while slamming the Indian Army for not giving opportunities to women.
“How can you continue to plead the same thing… This has been my impression right from the High Court that till a judgment is passed, the Army doesn’t believe in doing anything voluntarily. It’s like Army will act only when judicial orders will be passed,” observed Justice Kaul.
The Bench added, “It’s a question of mindset which is not changing. That’s why despite so many opportunities in the Supreme Court and High Court, we couldn’t persuade the government. Every time the order has come from the court, it has expanded the scope.”
We are permitting the girls who have approached the court to sit for the NDA examination because we will be considering the larger issue, it said further while giving interim order.
When the ASG Bhati sought to submit that women have been conferred Permanent Commission in the Army, Justice Kaul remarked, “You (Army) kept on opposing it and till orders were not passed, you didn’t do anything. The Navy and the Airforce are more forthcoming. The Army seems to have a bias to not implement.”
The court’s order came on a plea seeking directions to allow eligible female candidates to join the NDA and the Indian Naval Academy (INA) at par with the men. The plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra stated that denial of opportunity to women candidates to enrol at the NDA is violative of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 19 of the Constitution.
Senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, appearing for Kalra, told the Bench that the government has filed its affidavit and they say it is purely a policy decision and should not be interfered with by the court and that because girls are not allowed to enter into NDA does not mean there is any difficulty in their progression or in their career.
Earlier, the Bench had also issued a notice in an impleadment application by a woman candidate Anita, who was denied an opportunity to enrol at the NDA. Anita said she had to give up her aspirations to join the Armed Forces.
The plea said stated that the eligible and willing female candidates being denied the opportunity of entry to the National Defence Academy “on the basis of their sex and thereby systematically and categorically excluding eligible female candidates” the opportunity to train at the premier joint training institute of the Indian Armed Forces which, at a later point of time, becomes a hurdle in the career advancement opportunities for Female Officers in the Armed Forces.
The petition was filed in light of the directions issued by the top court on the extension of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Indian Army.
The plea said, “After the passing of the judgment in the matter of Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya by this Court, Permanent Commission has been extended to the Women Officers of the Army.
However, there is still no mode of entry available to female candidates to join the Armed Forces as Permanent Commission Officers. In the present state of affairs, female candidates have to apply through the appropriate mode of entry into the Armed Forces as a Short Service Commissioned Officer and after serving for a certain period of time, have the option to opt for Permanent Commission.”
It added that granting Permanent Commission to the Short Service Commission Women Officers is only half a measure to restore equality of opportunity in the Army.
“The categorical exclusion of women to train at the National Defence Academy and get commissioned into the Armed Forces of the Country as Permanent Commissioned Officers solely on the basis of their sex is a denial of the Fundamental Right to Practice any Profession and it is not justifiable within the contours of the Indian Constitution,” it added.
The government allows unmarried male candidates having adequate 10+2 qualification to take the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination, however, eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take this examination on the sole ground of their sex and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations, the petitioner contended.