The Supreme Court on Tuesday (7th July) gave the Center one month to implement the SC’s decision to grant a permanent commission to women Army officers serving under the Short Service Commission (SSC).
The Apex Court’s order passed on 17th February had ended gender disparity that stopped the female SSC officers from receiving a permanent commission that their male counterparts received. The Centre agreed to grant a permanent commission to women in 10 non-combat streams and was directed by the SC to complete the process in 3 months.
The deadline had expired in May 2020. The extended time given by the Court will be valid for a month starting Tuesday.
The Centre moved an application before the Supreme Court to extend the deadline expiring in May by six months, citing the pandemic and the lockdown that ensued.
Senior Advocate R Balasubramanian, who appeared on behalf of the Ministry of Defence, told the bench comprising Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Indu Malhotra that the government was in an advanced stage of implementing the Court’s order but it couldn’t be completed because of the lockdown that caused all government offices to be close abruptly.
In its petition, the Centre said, “On account of lack of staff, closure of hospitals, including Army hospital and non-availability of other requirements necessary to comply with the directions of the Supreme Court, it was very difficult to continue with the process of consideration of women officers for grant of permanent commission.”
Lawyers Meenakshi Lekhi and Meenakshi Arora represented the female SSC officers. Opposing the application, the counsel argued that an attempt is being made by Centre to dilute the Supreme Court judgment to delay its implementation.
The bench also noted that the Centre had started its efforts to implement the order of the Court but could not complete it because of the pandemic.
As per the Supreme Court’s order dated 17th February, female SSC officers who are currently serving and who had approached the Court but had retired when the case was still pending before the Court were eligible for a permanent commission. In 2006 the Army extended SSC to women recruits allowing them a short stint of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years, to work with the army’s non-combat streams.
The Delhi High Court in 2010, decided on a batch of petitions filed by women SSC officers and directed Centre to grant them a permanent commission. Challenging this order, the Centre approached the Supreme Court.