Don’t discharge woman naval officers seeking Permanent Commissions: SC

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Supreme Court of India

New Delhi– The Supreme Court Tuesday restrained the Navy from discharging four women officers under the Short Service Commission (SSC) without considering their requests for Permanent Commissions. The officers were due to complete their SSC tenure this week.

A bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice K.M. Joseph said: “Prima facie, the Union of India, having failed to comply with the directions contained in the judgment of this court dated March 17, 2020 which mandated consideration for the grant of Permanent Commissions within three months, it would be unfair to discharge the Short Service Commissioned officers in the meantime, pending consideration.”

Counsel representing the women officers submitted that the Centre was required to implement the decision of the top court granting Permanent Commissions within a period of three months, but this exercise has not been initiated (beyond inviting applications) and completed.

Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain, representing the Centre, stated that an application for extension of time has been filed before the top court in view of the intervening pandemic and the lockdown which was occasioned, as a consequence.

Responding to this contention, counsel for women officers submitted that as a result of the Delhi High Court verdict, even those cases where interim orders have been granted by the Armed Forces Tribunal are now being listed for vacating them.

After the hearing on the matter, the bench said: “We accordingly issue an ad-interim order and direction that the petitioner(s) shall not be discontinued from service pending consideration of their requests for the grant of Permanent Commission. The judgment of the Delhi High Court dated July 23, 2020 and of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) dated July 13, 2020 shall remain stayed.”

Issuing notice to the Centre, the court listed the matter for further hearing on August 20.

The officers had initially moved the AFT seeking interim relief of restraining the Navy from releasing them from services till their claim for grant of Permanent Commissions was considered on merit. After getting no relief from the tribunal, they moved the Delhi High Court, and then finally filed a special leave petition in the apex court. A total of six Navy officers – four women and two men – moved the court.

On March 17, the apex court had said yes to Permanent Commissions for women officers in the Navy, citing any effort to deprive serving women officers of the opportunity to work as equals with men in the service is plainly discriminatory.

A bench, headed by Justice Chandrachud and comprising Justice Ajay Rastogi, said: “A hundred and one excuses are no answer to the constitutional entitlement to dignity, which attaches to every individual irrespective of gender, to fair and equal conditions of work and to a level playing field.”

The apex court asked the Centre to complete the modalities in the view of this judgement within three months. (IANS)

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