The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday granted permanent commission to women officers in the Indian army hitting out at "gender stereotypes".
The top court upheld a 2010 Delhi High Court ruling saying that the Centre has to give permanent commission to short service commissioned (SSC) women officers irrespective of their years in service.
Central government's policy limits permanent commission to SSC women officers who have less than 14 years of service. The SC held this policy to be violative of right to equality and granted the Centre three months' time to enforce its order.
A bench of justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi also ruled that there cannot be an outright prohibition on women being considered for command appointments. However, the bench also held that this judgement will not be applicable to the combat roles.
The top court rejected the contention that women are "physiologically weak" to be granted permanent commission and command appointments. The SC called this argument emanating from a deeply ingrained gender stereotype in the Indian society which regards a man as being dominant whereas women are considered weak links and caregivers only.
"The Centre's submissions that women are physiologically weak are based on a deeply entrenched stereotype that men are dominant and women are basically caretakers. Taking care of family is a woman's job. This is deeply disturbing," the SC said.
The apex court's judgement came on a petition filed by the defence ministry which contested a 2010 ruling by the Delhi high court stating that short service commissioned women officers (SSCWO) in Indian Army and Air Force should be awarded permanent commission at par with male SSC officers.
In February 2019, the Centre had issued a notification in this regard where it allowed permanent commission to SSC women officers of Indian Army. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also earlier in 2019 endorsed the idea of permanent commission for women officers and announced the policy change in his Independence Day speech.
Nonetheless, as per the central government's proposal, SSC women officers with upto 14 years of service were considered for permanent commission.
Whereas, women officers with more than 14 years of service would only be allowed to serve upto 20 years without being considered for permanent commission after which they were released with retirement benefits (such as pension).