Supreme Court bats for women officers in armed forces

Asks government to desist from litigation on ensuring their benefits

The Supreme Court on Friday urged the government to provide relief to women who served as officers in the Short Service Commission of the defence forces without dragging them into litigation before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT).

“They are your own officers. They have served the Navy and the Army. Please try to sort it out with the authorities. Why push them into the litigation cycle again? They are in their years of retirement now,” a Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud addressed the government side led by Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain.

The court said the government and Mr. Jain should sit down and sort the problems out rather than take it to the Tribunal.

The court said it would ideally not like to intervene now after pronouncing a judgment opening the doors for women officers to permanent commission in the defence forces, on par with their male counterparts.

In its judgment on February last year, the apex court had dismissed views that women were physiologically weaker than men as a “sex stereotype”.

The Bench said the judgment has to be adhered to in letter and spirit.

In October last year, the court had expressed annoyance at the roadblocks faced by women officers on the way to permanent commission, promotion and consequential benefits, saying it showed a “difference in thinking” between the highest levels of leadership in the country and the Army bureaucracy.

“There is a different thinking that permeates the highest levels of leadership in the country and a different thinking in the bureaucracy of the Army. Bureaucracy is thinking how can these women protect the nation… We have to bridge the gap,” Justice Chandrachud had observed orally then during a hearing.

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