NEW DELHI: Emphasising the need for change of mindset to treat women officers on par with men, the Supreme Court on Tuesday said suitability and competence should be the criteria in deciding command appointments within the Army and there should not be any gender discrimination.
Though a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi appreciated the Centre for taking a “very positive step” in granting permanent commission to women officers, it asked why women are considered only for staff appointments and not command posts. “Test them on the same footing as men. Do not exclude them (women officers) as a class. Change of mindset is required,” the bench observed when senior advocate Aishwarya Bhatti and lawyer Meenakshi Lekhi, appearing for women officers, contended that not giving command appointments to women amounts to treating them as second class citizens within the Army.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanian and lawyer Neela Gokhale, appearing for the ministry of defence, contended that Army personnel work under very hostile conditions, particularly in forward areas. But their contention was opposed by the women officers and they told the bench that there are many instances of women officers performing their duty successfully in adverse conditions and pointed out that one such officer Archana had created bunker at the front-line during the Kargil war. The bench said that it may not direct the government to give command appointments to women officers but it would ask them to consider them on the basis of suitability and competence. The arguments would resume next week. It said the court would examine the plea of women officers in Air Force and Navy separately.