JURIST Digital Scholars
India Supreme Court rules women in military can receive permanent commissions
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India Supreme Court rules women in military can receive permanent commissions

The Supreme Court of India ruled Monday that women enlisted in India’s military are permitted to receive permanent commissions, a right previously held only by men.

Women in India were first permitted to enter the army in 1992 under a provision for an initial period of five years. In 1996, the provision limiting the enrollment for a period of five years was removed. Amendments to the 1992 law in 2005 extended the tenure of Women Special Entry Scheme Officers by five years while extending men’s tenure for Short Service Commissions to 14 years.

Women who completed the precommission training would be granted PCs while still being placed lower than other candidates passing from the Indian Military Academy.

According to the Union of India, women are not employed on duties which are hazardous in nature unlike their male counterparts in the same Arm/Service who are liable to be employed in combat duties. For instance, a male officer […] in the engineering branch would undergo a tenure in the Rashtriya Riffle/Assam Rifles while women officers are not employed due to the “inherent risks”.

The court also brought attention to the regular discriminatory claims brought to them in regard to women in the Army, such as the concept that women may not be fit for military service due to “pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families.” They stated that claims have also been brought that having women present would require more “moderated” behavior by men, an overall lower standard due to women’s “physiological limitations.” Further, it was said that including women was “inadvisable” due to instances in which military members are subjected to minimal hygiene facilities.

Despite contentions from the Union of India that there are not discriminatory practices in the military, even in light of the aforementioned claims, the Indian Supreme Court rejected their argument:

The submissions advanced in the note tendered to this Court are based on sex stereotypes premised on assumptions about socially ascribed roles of gender which discriminate against women. … Arguments founded on the physical strengths and weaknesses of men and women and on assumptions about women in the social context of marriage and family do not constitute a constitutionally valid basis for denying equal opportunity to women officers. To deny the grant of PCs to women officers on the ground that this would upset the “peculiar dynamics” in a unit casts an undue burden on women officers which has been claimed as a ground for excluding women.

The court ordered that compliance with its ruling must be instituted within three months and included a list of directions.