New Delhi: The Central government on Wednesday (September 8) told the Supreme Court that a decision has been taken to allow the induction of women into the Armed Forces through the National Defence Academy (NDA).
A Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said that it was extremely glad that Armed Forces themselves decided to induct women in NDA.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for Centre, told the Bench that Centre took the decision yesterday after consultation with three service chiefs.
"There is a piece of good news. A decision has been taken at the highest level of forces and government that women will be inducted for Permanent Commission through the National Defence Academy. The decision was taken late evening yesterday," ASG Bhati submitted.
The Bench said it would like the Defence forces to take a "more pro-active approach towards gender equality" instead of the court directing them to do so.
"We have been periodically nudging the authorities to do it themselves. We do believe they are best suited to evolve rules. It's not a happy situation for us. Armed forces are respected forces of this country but on gender equality, they have to do more," said Justice Kaul.
The apex asked ASG Bhati to put the statement on record through an affidavit, adjourned the matter for two weeks, and posted the matter for hearing on September 22.
"We are extremely glad to know as ASG submits that armed forces have taken a decision to induct females in NDA and other issues are being examined. They would like to place developments and future plans before us for which time is sought," it said.
The court was hearing the plea, seeking to allow women to take part in the NDA exams.
Earlier, the top court had in an interim order allowed women to take the NDA exam, which was scheduled for September 5, and had also slammed the Indian Army for the decisions that are based on 'gender discrimination'.
Today, ASG said that the women will be admitted to the NDA and apprised the Bench that the exam was postponed to November 24, 2021.
Bhati urged the apex court that the status quo be maintained with respect to the NDA admissions for the current academic year.
"Consider granting status quo for this examination and let it continue, as it will need policy, procedure, training, and infrastructure changes," the ASG submitted.
The Bench asked ASG to place on record the developments through an affidavit.
The top court had earlier allowed female candidates to sit for the NDA exam on September 5 but said that the admissions would be subject to the petition's outcome. It had also slammed the government and Army for not allowing women to take part in NDA exams.
"It's a policy decision which is based in gender discrimination. We direct the Centre and Army to take a constructive view of the matter…, the Bench had said expressing displeasure on 'regressive mindset'," said in the top court.
The petition was filed in the apex court seeking directions to allow eligible female candidates to join the NDA and the Indian Naval Academy (INA) at par with the men.
The plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra stated that denial of opportunity to women candidates to enrol at the NDA is violative of Articles 14, 15, 16, and 19 of the Constitution.
Earlier, the Bench had also issued a notice in an impalement application by a woman candidate Anita, who was denied an opportunity to enrol at the NDA. Anita had said that she had to give up her aspirations to join the Armed Forces.
"The eligible and willing female candidates being denied the opportunity of entry to the National Defence Academy on the basis of their sex and thereby systematically and categorically excluding eligible female candidates the opportunity to train at the premier joint training institute of the Indian Armed Forces which, at a later point of time, becomes a hurdle in the career advancement opportunities for Female Officers in the Armed Forces," stated in the plea.
The petition was filed in light of the directions issued by the top court on the extension of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Indian Army.
"After the passing of the judgment in the matter of Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya by this Court, Permanent Commission has been extended to the Women Officers of the Army. However, there is still no mode of entry available to female candidates to join the Armed Forces as Permanent Commission Officers. In the present state of affairs, female candidates have to apply through the appropriate mode of entry into the Armed Forces as a Short Service Commissioned Officer and after serving for a certain period of time, have the option to opt for Permanent Commission," the plea said.
It added that granting Permanent Commission to the Short Service Commission Women Officers is only half a measure to restore equality of opportunity in the Army.
"The categorical exclusion of women to train at the National Defence Academy and get commissioned into the Armed Forces of the Country as Permanent Commissioned Officers solely on the basis of their sex is a denial of the Fundamental Right to Practice any Profession and it is not justifiable within the contours of the Indian Constitution," it added.
"The government allows unmarried male candidates having adequate 10+2 qualification to take the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination, however, eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take this Examination on the sole ground of their sex and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations," the petitioner contended.