The Centre, on Women’s Day on Tuesday, told the Supreme Court that the mindset has changed in connection with induction of women officers in the armed forces, and also assured the possibility of allocating more seats to women candidates in National Defence Academy (NDA), after deliberating implications in the long term, in the next three months.
At this, a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M. M. Sundresh said: “Revolution does not come overnight and social revolution takes time to come. Social and logistics aspects also take time.” Justice Kaul noted that if an institution has been all boys’, changes take time and the court’s job is to keep prodding.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, brought on record comparative figures on the percentage of women in armed forces in different countries. According to the Indian Navy’s affidavit, women officers in the Indian defence forces are 13.6 per cent, which is fourth largest after US, Australia, and France.
The affidavit said: “That induction of woman cadets in NDA has been a major policy decision. The respondents need sufficient time for deliberating implications in the long term for induction and deployment of ex-NDA women cadets in the Indian Armed Forces. It is, therefore, submitted that the respondents require at least three months additional time towards this”.
The top court noted the valuable assistance of Bhati as a law officer, in the matter, as it appreciated armed forces approach on the aspect of gender equality.
After hearing detailed arguments in the matter, the top court scheduled the matter for further hearing in July.
The affidavit said that a total of 8,009 candidates, including 1,002 women, passed the NDA written examination held during November 2021 and the Service Selection Board (SSB) is scheduled with effect from March-April 2022.
“In respect of number of women to be inducted for NDA- II 2021 and NDA-I 2022, it is submitted that each course at NDA has 370 vacancies for the three services. Out of these, 208 cadets get commissioned in the Indian Army (IA), 120 cadets get commissioned in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 42 cadets get commissioned in the Indian Navy (IN)”, added the affidavit.
The top court was informed that the proportional strength of women cadets in the NDA is more than the existing proportional strength of women officers (WOs) in the Indian Army. The affidavit added that the average intake in the last four years of WOs in the eight arms and services has been up to 15 per cent of the total cadre strength. “With the present allotment of 10 women candidates per course in NDA, i.e 20 per year, the women cadre in these arms will witness a growth of 5 per cent i.e. from the existing 15 per cent to 20 per cent,”, it added.
The Centre has justified restricting the intake of women cadets in the NDA to 19 per batch for the time being, saying the number is based on sound rationale and current requirement. The NDA exam is conducted twice a year, NDA-I in the first half of the year and NDA-II in the second.
The Centre’s response came after senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma and advocate Mohit Paul complained against a fresh notification issued by Union Public Services Commission for NDA-I exam in 2022, which limited the intake of women cadets to just 19.
On the aspect of determinants of future progressions, the affidavit said that as many as 506 women officers have been granted Permanent Commission in the army against backdrop of the apex court orders.
“The Indian Army since has been simultaneously engaged in a large number of operational challenges, especially on northern borders, which have effected permanent changes in deployment and various other operational facets, requiring in-depth analysis and extrapolated impacts in cadre management to include women officers’ operational employment,” added the affidavit.