In a temporary relief for 72 women Army officers, the Supreme Court has asked the government to not relieve any of them from their services until the next hearing of the case. The Supreme Court has also asked the government to explain the reason behind their disqualification from permanent commission.
“None of these officers should be relieved from service until the next hearing,” the Supreme Court told the government. The matter will be heard again on October 8.
A two-judge bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice BV Nagarathna, who is in line to become the first woman Chief Justice of India, was hearing the matter.
Senior lawyers V Mohana, Huzefa Ahmadi and Meenakshi Arora – representing the women officers – told the court that the disqualification was against the court’s previous judgement in March and a “gross violation”.
Senior lawyer Meenakshi Arora told the court on the behalf of officers: “The Supreme Court’s criteria was very clear on permanent commission. We all have above 60 per cent. We are all medically fit. And there is no vigilance case against us. We fulfil all criteria for permanent commission.”
Senior lawyer Huzefa Ahmadi added on behalf of the petitioners: “There is no vigilance action against them. So how are they being relieved. It is an abuse of process.”
Appearing for the government, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the court, “If 72 officers have been rejected, then there might be 72 different reasons. Not all (are) under one blanket reason. We will need time to analyse the reasons.”
In the March 25 judgement of the Supreme Court, the Indian Army was directed to grant permanent commission to all Women Short Service Commissions Officers (WSSCO) who met the criteria.
The court had given the government three months to complete this process.
In the ruling, the Army was directed “to positively grant permanent commission to all WSSCOs who obtained 60 per cent marks in their assessment subject to their meeting the medical criteria prescribed by the Army’s August 1 2020 order and receiving disciplinary and vigilance clearance.”
Army’s evaluation criteria for granting permanent commission women SSC officers “systematically discriminated against them”, the top court had said at the time.
This was a year after the top court – in February 2020 – had directed the government to ensure that women SSC officers are given permanent commission in the Army, including command postings. However, when some women officers did not make the list as results were out in November, they went to the Supreme Court.