Citing the Covid-19 pandemic, the central government has asked for six extra months from the Supreme Court to grant permanent commission to eligible women officers in the army and make provisions for command posts for them.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud will consider the request made by the government on Tuesday.
In its application filed recently, the Ministry of Defence has sought six more months to comply with the top court’s February 17 verdict, which had shattered the glass ceiling by making it clear that women officers had to be treated on par with their male counterparts.
Pressing for a change in the mindset, the apex court had said the Centre’s submission of physiological limitation is based on flawed notion and there is no constitutional basis to deny the women officers equal opportunities.
The judgment by the Supreme Court had come 14 years after 11 women officers from the Indian Army instituted a PIL in the Delhi High Court.
The new application by the Centre, however, has underlined that it was not possible to comply with the court’s orders owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, which crippled the administrative functioning of the ministry as well as within the army.
It pointed out that the nationwide lockdown, offices of the government were shut and thus the lack of staff etc made it very difficult to go ahead with complying with the directions of the court.
The plea added the government is obligated to honour the directions passed by the Supreme Court on February 17 but the situations triggered by the coronavirus outbreak held its hands and hence, it would require more time to comply with the directives.
“The applicants have commenced the process of substantial compliance of the directions issued by this Hon'ble Court in earnest and in letter and spirit. However, in view of the Corona pandemic and the ensuing lockdown coupled with exigencies of services, the applicants have not been able to complete the same and requires some more time to complete the process," stated the application.
The application has sought extension of the time by another six months after May 17, which was the deadline fixed by the bench for compliance.
“This Hon’ble Court may kindly be pleased to extend the period of three months granted to the Applicant to comply with the Judgement and order dated 17.2.2020 by a further period of six months,” stated the plea.
While affirming the Delhi High Court’s 2011 judgment in granting benefits of permanent commission to women officers who had completed 14 years of service, the apex court bench had ordered that “necessary steps for compliance with this judgment shall be taken within three months from the date of this judgment.”
The judgment had opened up avenues for serving women officers as it made it clear that the government, in terms of its new policy, could not confine the entitlement of permanent commission only to those women officers who joined the forces after 2014.
The bench had held that all eligible women officers will be given the permanent commission and those not opting for it shall retire after 20 years of service with all the benefits.