The Supreme Court has given the government a months' time to implement its order "in letter and spirit", giving all women army officers under the Short Service Commission (SSC) a permanent commission in the army.
The top court, on February 17, had said that permanent commission would be available to all women, regardless of their years of service. Women officers in the army can get command positions on par with male officers, the top court had said in a watershed moment for the Indian military, asserting that the government's arguments against it were "discriminatory", "disturbing," and based on stereotype.
The government was asked to implement the order within three months.
The top court's direction came today as it heard a petition by the Defence Ministry, seeking six months' time to implement the February order to grant permanent commission to eligible women officers in the army and make provisions for command posts for them. The ministry had cited the coronavirus pandemic as the reason for needing more time.
In its petition, the government had said that its administrative functioning was crippled due to the pandemic as offices were closed during the lockdown and that it was difficult to implement the Supreme Court's orders.
Senior Advocate R Balasubramanium, appearing for the government, said there is no laxity from the Defence Ministry's end and that the ministry is in the process of issuing orders.
In Febraury, the Supreme Court had said even women who have served more than 14 years in the Short Service Commission in the army can have the option of permanent commission. The court commented that there was a "fundamental fallacy" in the centre's policy of considering only women with less than 14 years for permanent commission.
At present, woman officers can serve for 10 to 14 years in the Short Service Commission. Women officers are allowed entry into Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Education Corps, Judge Advocate General, Engineers, Signals, Intelligence and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering branches.
The Supreme Court had cleared permanent commission for women in the Indian Navy in March, saying women officers can sail with the same efficiency as male officers.