Women in NDA: Supreme Court gave three weeks to the Centre to file affidavit. (Representational)
The Supreme Court Tuesday asked the Centre to explain why, despite its orders, the intake of women candidates in National Defence Academy (NDA) for year 2022 has been restricted to 19, the figure same as last year.
It asked the Centre to place the figures on record about the total number of candidates including women who have appeared in the NDA examination 2021, for entrance tests for Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and for Rashtriya Military School (RMS).
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M M Sundresh told Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, that the government will have to explain why the figure of 19 women has been fixed for year 2022 as per the notification issued by UPSC.
“The figure is the same as for the 2021 test. Last year, you said that it was due to infrastructure problems that the intake of women will be less. Now, again for the year 2022, you have proposed to take the same number of women candidates. Why have you fixed this figure? You have to explain this. Nineteen seats cannot be for all times to come. It was only an ad hoc measure,” the bench said.
The top court gave three weeks to the Centre to file affidavit and asked the parties to file their rejoinder in two weeks thereafter and listed the matter for further hearing on March 6.
At the outset, senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, appearing for petitioner Kush Kalra, said they have filed an additional affidavit stating that on November 14, 2021 the NDA exam was held and 8,009 candidates qualified for the Service Selection Board test as also medical tests, out of which 1,002 candidates were women and 7,007 men.
He said that as per the information made available in the advertisement issued by UPSC and by the government, NDA will take in 400 cadets in the current NDA-II 2021 intake.
"Of these, 208 candidates, including 10 women, will go to the Army. The Navy will take in 42 candidates including 3 women, while the IAF will admit 120 candidates, of which 6 will be women. Thus, the total number of women to be inducted into the NDA in June 2022 is 19," Mr Sharma said.
He added that surprisingly, in the examination notice dated December 22, 2021 issued by UPSC for the NDA-I 2022 examination to be held on April 10, 2022 (induction on January 2, 2023), out of a total of 400 vacancies the number of vacancies for women is shown as Army - 208 (including 10 for female candidates), Navy 42 (including three for female candidates) and Indian Air Force (Flying - 92 (including two for female candidates), Ground Duties (Tech) - 18 (including two for female candidates) and Ground Duties (Non-Tech) - 10 (including two for female candidates)).
Mr Sharma said that it can be seen from the reading of the Examination Notice December 22, 2021 that the number of women candidates to be inducted in January 2023 continues to remain at 19.
He said that in the affidavit dated September 20, 2021 filed by the Centre, it has been categorically stated that necessary steps will be in place by May of this year itself (2022).
"Furthermore, for the first time it is mentioned that the intake in the Naval Academy is for 30 male candidates only. The said restriction is arbitrary," he said.
Mr Sharma added that therefore, to continue to keep the number of intake of female candidates at only 19 even for the next year that is for 2023 and only allowing male candidates in naval entry as per the Examination Notice dated December 22, 2021 is not only arbitrary and violative of Article 14, 15, 16 and 19 of Constitution of India but also is contrary to the stand taken by the Centre before the court.
Ms Bhati said that intake of female candidates in the NDA and other institutions do not only depend on infrastructure but on several other reasons including the requirement of defence forces.
“The court may allow us sometime to file a detailed affidavit in the matter and we will try to put forth the reasons behind the number of intake of women candidates”, she said.
The bench said it understands that not all fields are open for women candidates in defence forces and there will not be an equal number of men and women as of now but it will take time.
On September 22, last year, in a first, the top court had permitted female candidates to appear for the entrance exam to the NDA which was to be held in November, last year, saying their induction cannot be postponed by one year as sought by the Centre.
The Centre had submitted that a study group has been formed to facilitate the entry of women, and the necessary mechanism to facilitate that can be put in place by May 2022.
On October 7, last year the top court had permitted female candidates to appear in the examination for Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) in Dehradun, scheduled to be held on December 18, last year, saying the Centre has walked a mile and should walk a step ahead.