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A Long Trip From Patriarchy To Parity: Permanent Commission For Women In Army

The military has traditionally been thought of as a male-dominated profession, but it now includes women in every capacity, setting an example for others to follow. Women were first admitted into the military in 1992 as regular officers in aviation, logistics, engineering, and other administrative positions. Previously, women's duties were restricted to the medical profession. They did, however, thrive in those jobs as well. The Rani Jhansi Brigade of the Indian National Army, led by Captain Lakshmi Swaminathan, is a wonderful example of women who have held positions of leadership in the past. This force was extremely effective in the Malay jungles in 1943.

Initially, it was difficult for male officers to accept female counterparts as co-workers because they came from conventional families where women don't do such works. Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Education Corps, Judge Advocate General's Department, Engineers, Signals, and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers all have female officers. Every year, only about 100 women are commissioned as officers from the Officers Training Academy (OTA), compared to thousands of males.

With the formation of the Indian Military Nursing Services in 1888, the position of women in the armed forces began to take shape. It is a branch of the Armed Forces Military Services, which was founded in 1888 during British administration. The Indian Army's nurses initially distinguished themselves during World War I. With the establishment of the Women's Auxiliary Corps, women's responsibilities began to expand even more, allowing them to serve in largely non-combatant tasks such as communications, bookkeeping, and administration.

Noor Inayat Khan was well-known for her heroic World War II duty. She was the first female radio operator dispatched into Nazi-occupied France by the Special Operations Executive during World War II. She was of Indian origin (SOE). She was finally captured and murdered by the Gestapo.

Females are ineligible for enlistment or employment in the Air Force under Section 12 of the Air Force Act of 1950, save in such corps, department, branch, or body constituting part of or attached to the Air Force as the Central Government may designate in this regard by notification.

The central government announced the wings of the Air Force where women might enlist or work in an official publication in November 1991. All of these women, however, were placed on a short-term commission rather than a permanent one. Women officers in the Indian Air Force fought their way through a slew of legal battles before ultimately being awarded permanent commission in the force.

The Indian Navy's induction of women was limited under Section 9(2) of the Navy Act, 1957. They were ineligible for Navy enlistment and employment. This clause, however, can be nullified if the union government uses its authority to establish exceptions to the women's ban.

The government issued a notification and allowed women for enlistment and employment in primarily three branches of the Navy, in accordance with the exact power bestowed upon them. I Logistics; (ii) Law; and (iii) Education were the three branches. This notice outlined a set of restrictions and regulations that would apply to women who were given a Permanent Commission. Women, on the other hand, were only employed on a short-term basis, not on a permanent one.

Likewise, unless the government grants permission through a gazette notification, women are ineligible for employment or enlistment in the Army under Section 12 of the Army Act, 1950. The union government again released a list of sectors where female officials might be appointed in January 1992. The Army Postal Service, the Judge Advocate General's Department, the Army Education Corps, the Army Ordinance Corps (Central Ammunition Depots and Material Management), and the Army Service Corps Officers (Food Scientists and Catering Officers) were among them.

Only the Short Service Commission was eligible for this incentive. The SSC was originally just 5 years long, but it was eventually extended to a maximum of 10 or 14 years. Female officers in the Army, like those in the other two armies, had to wage a lengthy war against the Army's hostile policy of denying PC to meritorious women officers.

Arguments in favour of Permanent Commission for Women

The term "permanent commission" refers to a job that lasts until retirement age. It implies that an officer is chosen by the Permanent Commission and serves the country until he or she reaches the age of 60. For PC, an Army officer must enrol in the National Defence Academy (NDA), Indian Military Academy (IMA), or Officers Training Academy (OTA).

The union government issued a decree in February 2019 allowing PC to women in 8 combat support services, but only on a prospective basis. Thus, the key question in Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & ors[1] was whether women currently serving in the army could be eligible for permanent commission and if the federal government's instructions announced in February 2019 should be respected.

Finally, in February 2020, the SC issued the following directive to the Union Government:

  • Every female officer on an SSC basis, regardless of whether she has worked for 14 or 20 years, should be evaluated for a PC.
  • Women who do not choose PC or are not appointed on PC will be offered the option to continue serving for up to 20 years of pensionable service, with the latter benefit being a one-time benefit.
  • All women who do not receive a PC after 20 years of service are eligible to retire on pension conditions.
  • The clauses in paragraphs 5 and 6 that say "diverse staff appointments only" will not be enforced.
  • When women officers on SCC are offered PC, they will be able to weigh all of their choices for being evaluated for the grant on the same conditions as their male colleagues, as well as being eligible for all of the perks that come with it.
As a result of this decision, all women in the Indian Army have the right to be treated equally to their male counterparts by being offered PC in all 10 branches.

Arguments against Permanent Commission for Women

Women's participation, according to the Union of India, will have a detrimental impact on the unit's cohesion. It was argued that the government must consider the inherent dangers of Army officers' service, as well as the adverse conditions of service, which do not include privacy in war zones, insurgency zones, or any other field, as well as maternity and child care issues, which are always linked to a woman. These concerns are not susceptible to judicial scrutiny, as established in the case Union of India v. PK Chaudhary[2].

It was also stated that border regions lack even the most basic and minimum facilities, making the employment of female police in such locations unwise due to habitat and hygiene concerns. The government's committee investigating cadre concerns in the Armed Forces recommended a thin permanent cadre of officers, complemented by a larger support cadre. As a result, admission into Permanent Commissions via SSC will disrupt the Army's organisation.

According to the Union Government, the Military has a significant management problem in managing WOs in soft postings with appropriate infrastructure, not involving hazardous activities in normal positions with other women in the station. The Army must accommodate spousal postings, "extended absences owing to maternity leave, child care leave," and "legitimate dues of male officers must be sacrificed" as a result.

Way forward
India maintains a closed-door policy when it comes to women serving in the military. In 1992, the first group was formed. As a result, our understanding of the complexities and long-term implications of the issues is severely limited. Women, on the other hand, have served in the army of developed countries for a long time. These countries have gained a thorough understanding of the plethora of difficulties involved. Defence readiness is one important consideration that should be kept at the top of the priority list while people consider their employment options.

Women's vocation perspectives and opportunities should be considered holistically. Women's deserving prospects should not be denied because of misleading statistics, such as blaming the patriarchal nature of the general population. India has come a long way, and society should be wary of women being drafted into combat roles. The government has a legal and social obligation to create a regulatory and social framework for the simple enlisting of women in the Armed Forces.

Authoritative issues should not be viewed as a barrier to women joining the armed forces. The structure for women's enlisting should be integrated into a strategy. Concerned about preserving the dignity and pride of female officials, complex systems of agreed regulations should be in place to ensure that no hostile events occur. At last, no decision should be made that has even a little impact on the military's cohesion and performance. Defence strategy should not be influenced by concerns about gender balance or political expediency.

When we consider this slew of concerns, we can't ignore the realities of changing the environment, security discernment, and women's capacities in modern combat, where mental toughness takes precedence over physical toughness, and where fighting is more about overcoming pressure than actual combat. It has been scientifically proven that women are more capable of dealing with pressure and are mentally tougher. This isn't meant to limit a woman's physical capabilities. There are many difficulties that cannot be resolved, but discernment and an inviting approach can make a huge difference.

A few women may be hesitant to unite now, but this opinion can be changed with dialogue and consideration. For the granting of Permanent Commission in 10 streams of combat support weapons and administrations, the Supreme Court abolished all segregation based on extended stretches of administration, welcoming them on par with male officers. It has also removed the restriction that women officials can only serve in staff arrangements, which is the most important and far-reaching component of the ruling.

It means that women officials will be qualified to hold all positions of authority, on par with male officials, which will create doors for them to advance to higher positions. It also means that women officials in junior positions and professional courses would attend similar instructional programmes and rent basic accommodations, which are required for higher advancements. Women officials are qualified to hold all command positions at the same level as male officials, which would create doors for them to advance to higher positions.

  1. Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya & Ors., MANU/SC/0194/2020.
  2. Union of India and Anr vs Lt Col P.K. Choudhary and Ors., MANU/SCOR/13875/2016.
Written By: Prime Legal Law Firm
Off Address: 39/2, 2nd floor, K G Road, Bengaluru, Karnataka-560001
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