On Wednesday 22nd September 2021, the Supreme Court of India directed the Union of India to address the issue of induction of women to Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and Rashtriya Military School to be at par.
The petition filed by Kailas Udhavrao More has challenged the notification dated 2nd Feb 2021 issued by Rashtriya Indian Military College allowing admission of boys only and the notification issued for All India Sainik School Entrance Examination giving only 10 admissions out of against 90 seats which are reserved for the boys .The present plea has been filed against exclusion of girl candidates from Rashtriya Indian Military and other Schools and Colleges run under the aegis of Ministry of Defence like the Indian Military College, Sainik School, National Yacht training school.
The present plea has sought directions to restrain the Union of India from issuing any kind of notification for admission in schools and colleges run under the aegis of Ministry of Defence which would discriminate on the ground of gender.
A Division Bench comprising Justice SK Kaul and Justice BR Gavai has directed the Union of India to address the issue.
The Bench was also considering an application filed by Centre for Reforms, Development and Justice seeking directions to the Centre to amend its policy for admission to RIMC Dehradun permitting girl students to apply and take admission in courses offered for boy students at par without any gender inequality.
While noting that the defence forces have charted a course forward for induction of women in the National Defence Academy, Supreme Court observed that the issue of admission to girls in Rashtriya Indian Military College has to be addressed and cannot be postponed.
The Bench made note of the submissions made by ASG Aishwarya Bhati that a separate study group other than the Committee formed to iron out the creases for induction of women in NDA was so far as induction of women in RIMC is concerned.
The Bench recorded that, "We are told that large date of submission of application is 30th October and the exam is scheduled for 18th December. Possibly the time to be taken would not be that much and would be less. Be that as it may, One would expect the complete system to be in place as as stated by ASG qua NDA till May 2022. That leaves us with the question of what is to happen to the exam which is now scheduled and we have to take cognisance of the fact that we have permitted women candidates to compete for NDA. That being the position, we would require the ASG to even address this induction at par and file an affidavit before us within 2 weeks."
"In so far as Sainik Schools are concerned, the Bench had on an earlier occasion made note of the Union of India's affidavit which stated that the process of admitting girls have already started and will be further expanded. On 18th August, while addressing the issue of women not being inducted into the RIMC," the Bench had remarked while adding, "Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) is a 99 years old institution which will complete 100 years next year. The question is whether it completes its 100 years with gender neutrality or not"
At the outset, the Bench asked ASG Bhati as to what has been done with regard to the admission to RIMC. ASG Bhati responded saying that "There was a resistance same as in case of NDA but now the NDA having taken a decision the RIMC has to follow suit, there's no difficulty. But again the aspect of feasibility and working it out, if Lordships call it in January we will be able to be in a better position to give a concrete chart."
"We are not saying the course be charted out like it has been done in NDA. We addressed that in our order of 18th august", the Bench said.The Bench told ASG Bhati that the process for induction of women should be begun. "You cannot water down if you are taking from each state so you will have to expand the strength We want you to begin the process. Even if you are taking a few girls, begin the process," the Bench said.
The Bench further suggested that, "You can begin by providing a couple of seats to the girls. Maybe the ultimate solution in view of the nature of induction is to increase the number of candidates. You can maintain the intake of one candidate from each state as the system exists and in addition take maybe 4-5 girls, who should be representative of different states. Something like this."
To this, "We'll have to see if they would want a CoED school or a separate school for girls." ASG Bhati said.
Justice Kaul further remarked, "Till you workout the creases, please begin the process. We only want you to begin the process. We just want to push you to begin the process and then you can work it out"
"We are not dealing with the issue of induction into fields in which women are not in existence, we are dealing with induction of fields which you are including them" , he added. "We appreciate the problem & both the physical needs of the system and the mental block. The Physical aspects need to be addressed. The process to reach what it should reach will take time but let's make a small beginning and then carry on to a larger beginning till May 2022," he further added.
Justice Kaul further said, "Certainly the aspirations having been raised, we are not willing to lower their aspirations. We are giving you time to iron out the creases but the clock will not be set back."
ASG Bhati indicated that the standards for admitting women who are going to be teenagers would have to be set and examined. "Ultimately the idea is to make proficient soldiers here. NDA training is really a building block training, the students are broken down first and then prepared to be proficient soldiers. While women are there as equal soldiers in the Armed forces, their induction at a later age is different, these are going to be teenagers 16-19-year-old. Their medical standards, training standards, etc are required to be done before the examination starts, " the ASG said.
"It is better to give them a chance at least to participate even if someone may or may not make it rather than shutting them off. You can work out, its not very complex. It is not easy, but it is not very complex." the Bench said.
ASG Bhati further said, "I'd like to make an anecdote. My elder brother sent me a letter that Mr Nani Palkhivala had written to Mr Soli Sorabjee and he wrote that the Government or the State wins . So we go by that motto and assist your Lordships."
"The Impact of your Lordships order today is going to be felt later. The result & the fruit of it will be felt later." Adv Manish Kumar added.
On the aspect of an increase in the intake of students or creating a separate Institute for Women, the Bench left it on the Government to take a call.
Justice Kaul said "We are also conscious of the fact that here are different conditions applicable, we have also come to know each State gives a contribution and that shouldn't be taken down. The idea is to to expand it by few candidates or set up a separate institute. It is for them to work it out. Maybe a separate institute will facilitate a larger intake. It is for them to make a conscious decision that whether women being now inducted into services, at the stage of induction into schools and and then into services would they like to keep the segregation or would they like to have one institution. I wouldn't like to say anything, but they have to keep in mind to merge the channels. We leave it to them to take a call."
Case Title: Kailas Udhavrao More vs Union of India