The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the pleas of several women short service commission (SSC) officers seeking grant of permanent commission in the Army, while holding that the Annual Confidential Report (ACR) evaluation process was flawed and discriminatory in nature. The bench also noted that the structure of our society is created by males for males where talk of equality is a farce, and since Independence, efforts have been made to bridge the gap and grant equal opportunity to men and women.
Delivering its verdict on a batch of pleas filed by several women officers who had sought compliance of the apex court’s February 2020 directions to the Union government for grant of permanent commission, promotions and consequential benefits, the court said the ACR evaluation criteria for grant of permanent commission to women officers ignored achievements and laurels brought by them to the Indian Army.
A bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said the process by which women officers were evaluated did not address the gender discrimination concern raised in the verdict delivered by the apex court last year. In its landmark judgement delivered on February 17 last year, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission, rejecting the Union government’s stand of their “physiological limitations” as being based on "sex stereotypes" and "gender discrimination against women".
It had directed that within three months, all serving short service commission (SSC) women officers have to be considered for permanent commission irrespective of them having crossed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.
In its judgement passed on Thursday, the apex court said that ACR evaluation criteria for SSC women officers in Army created systematic discrimination. “The ACR evaluation process itself indicated that it was flawed and we hold it to be unfair and arbitrary,” the bench said.
It is not enough to state that women officers are allowed in the Army when their service conditions show a different picture, it said. Women who have not been granted permanent commission have not come before us for charity, but for their rights, the top court said.
Some of the women officers had said in their plea filed in the apex court that directions passed earlier were not being complied with in "letter and spirit".
The procedures for grant of permanent commission is "vitiated with arbitrariness, unfairness and unreasonableness", they had alleged in the plea.