'Denial of command posts to women officers on physiological limitations a regressive step'

New Delhi, Feb 9 (PTI) Serving women officers in the Indian Army have countered the Centre's stand in the Supreme Court on denying command posts to women on the ground of their physiological limitations, terming it not only 'regressive but also completely contrary to the demonstrated record and statistics'.

In their written submission to the court, the women officers sought rejection of the submission of the Centre and said it is unfortunate that such grounds have been raised, which are completely contrary to the demonstrated records of the case.

'It is submitted that the justification/reasons stated in the note handed over on behalf of the Union of India with regard to denying women officers command appointments is not highly regressive but also completely contrary to the demonstrated record and statistics,' the women officers said in their written submission.

The women officers said they have been serving in the 10 Combat Support Arms, for the last 27 to 28 years and have proven their metal and courage under fire.

'They have been found suitable by the organization itself and have led platoons and companies of soldiers and men, both in peace locations as also hostile locations/operations, in the 10 Combat Support Arms. There has never been any occasion of soldiers/men having refused or not accepted the command of women on account of their perceived ‘rural background, with prevailing societal norms’,' the written submission stated.

The written submission which has been taken on record said the women officers have demonstrated that they do not lack in any manner in the roles that have been assigned to them.

'These purported grounds of Union of India, which in the submission of the Impleaded-Respondents are nothing but misconceived and false boogies, to deny women officers of their rightful entitlements and it even runs contrary to the letter, spirit and purport of the policy decision of the Union of India dated February 25, 2019 by which Permanent Commission has been granted to SSCWOs, in all the 10 arms that they have been serving as SSCOs,' the women officers added.

The women officers said according to the policy letter dated February 25, 2019, permanent commission to women officers is being confined to 'staff appointments only', as against 'criteria appointments/command appointments'.

They contended that no such confinement of women officers to staff appointments only, has ever been contemplated or notified in any of the advertisements or policy decisions since 1992, when women were first inducted into the Indian Army.

'It is submitted that women officers have been working shoulder to shoulder, with their colleagues in the Indian Army. Even as Short Service Commission Women Officers (SSCWOs), they have been working as company commander and leading the soldiers from the front as per the ethos of the Indian Army,' they said.

The women officers added that as young officers in the rank of Captain and Major, they have been in hostile and combat zone, and have displayed exemplary courage and bravery, acting exactly in the manner commensurate with the respect that the Indian Army commands, world over.

'To deny them command appointments would be an extremely retrograde step and will inflict irreparable injury to the dignity of these brave women,” the women officers said in their written submission.

On February 5, the top court while reserving the verdict on the issue had asked the women officers and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to submit their written submissions.

The court which is considering the issue of giving command position to women officers in the Army after grant of permanent commission had said the government has to look at the matter 'very differently'.

The apex court was hearing an appeal by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) against the March 2010 judgment of the Delhi High Court which had directed the Navy to grant permanent commission to all its women officers on short service commission.

The top court had said it would examine the issue related to command posts for women officers in the Air Force and the Navy on February 11.

The Centre submitted a written note in the apex court, containing the proposal of the government, that points out to several issues, including 'physical prowess' and 'physiological limitations' as challenges for women officers to meet the exigencies of service in the Army.

In its written note, the Centre had said that women officers up to 14 years of service would be considered for permanent commissions and further career progression in staff appointments only.

It said that women officers above 14 years of service would be permitted to serve up to 20 years without consideration for permanent commission and would be released with pensionary benefits subject to meeting disciplinary and medical criteria. PTI MNL ABA LLP SNE SNE