The history of discrimination in India is an undeniable fact especially when it comes to gender. The earlier mindset of the policy thinkers and executive authorities was patriarchal and concentrated on the benefits and privileges of the dominant. But, as society grew, the question of gender discrimination attracted the interest of philosophers and jurists which considerably affected the foot of females at par with their male counterparts.
In the same alignment, the recent judgement of the Supreme Court throws light on the gender discrimination prevalent in the various branches of Indian Forces. On November 16, the Apex court delivered the judgement under its power authorised under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution and directed the Central government and Indian Air Force to grant pensionary benefits and other consequential benefits to 32 women officers who served under the Short Service Commission.
PRECEDENTS OF THE MATTER
It is pertinent to note that these women officers had joined the IAF service between 1993 and 1998 in pursuance of an advertisement rendered on November 25, 1991. The advertisement mentioned that initially, the officers would work for five years, and then they would be considered for the Permanent Commission. But, rather than considering them for Permanent Commission, their appointment was extended for six years which was further extended for four more years.
Then, on September 9, 2004, a policy was rendered by IAF mentioning that women SSC officers would not be considered for Permanent Commission. On May 25, 2006, the next policy came into the picture which mentioned that no Permanent Commission would be offered to SSCOs. But after vehement criticism on October 26, 2008, a policy was issued providing permanent commissions to women officers in select branches of the three Armed Forces.
It is pertinent to note that in the landmark judgement of February 17, 2020, the apex court had reiterated that women officers who are serving in the Army must be granted permanent Commission, totally denying the Centre’s stand that their psychological and sexual barriers are a limitation on their powers. The court directed that all the women officers must be granted permanent Commissions and it is immaterial whether they have completed 14 years or 20 years of service.
In the immediate case, the appellants represented by senior advocate Meenakshi Arora along with advocate Archana Pathak Dave and Advocate Chitrangda Rastravara appealed before the apex court for their reinstatement and Permanent Commission in the Indian Air Force but the court considering their age of retirement had denied the request of the same.
THE JUDGEMENT OF THE BENCH
The judgement of the Bench headed by Chief Justice D.Y. Chandrachud, Justice Hima Kohli, and Justice J.B. Pardiwala preferred to hear the matter on the basis of the Human Resource Policy of 2010 and granted the pensionary benefits to the appellants who were striving for justice for twelve long years. The bench said the women IAF officers if found eligible by the IAF for grant of permanent commission, will be entitled to a grant of one-time pensionary benefit from the date when they would have completed 20 years in service if it had continued.
Further, the court asked the Indian Air Force to consider the reinstatement of women officers who were selected between 1993 and 1998 to the Permanent Commission. The court relied on the judgement of The Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya and Ors., popularly known as the Babita Puniya case. Justice D.Y. Chandrachud while giving the judgement reiterated that gender stereotype is ever-present in Indian society and on the same foundation discrimination has been perpetuated to the womenfolk. The case granted women officers permanent and long job opportunities in ten non-combat services as well as an opportunity to serve in the Indian Army for a long term.
From the above analysis, it is clear that the journey of gender discrimination is a long one and cannot be ignored by cloaking our eyes with positive affirmations. The immediate case shows that women-centric discrimination is vehemently existing in the workforce where women are neglected for permanent and high professional work due to their psychological and sexual differentiations. This kind of discrimination though archaic is anachronistic to the development of our society and for future prospects. There is an urgent need to reform the system at a considerable rate so as to annihilate the deep-rooted insurgencies.
Author’s Name: Umra Siddiqui (Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh)