The decision forwarded by Delhi High Court on Friday changed the prevalent commission system in the India Navy. The Court said that women can now have full term service in the Indian Navy and are also eligible for retirement benefits. A detailed judgment is likely to be released by Monday.
A bench of Justice Kailash Gambhir and Justice Najmi Waziri also allowed the plea of women naval officers seeking retirement benefits like pension. Till date, women naval officers were not eligible for pension as the rules required completion of 20 years in service. It must be considered that Army and Air Force allowed permanent commission to the women in 2010 while in Navy, women are only allowed for short service commission which has a maximum tenure of 14 years. Around 19 women naval officers from the logistics, education and air traffic control departments of the Navy (both retired and serving) filed six separate petitions in the High Court alleging gender based discrimination in the forces and asking for similar rights as their counterparts in other forces.
The petition mentioned that women officers were only entitled to short service commission while men were entitled to both short service as well as permanent commissions. Asking the High Court to intervene in the issue, the petition pointed that women aren’t allowed on ships under the existing rules and hence they also face discrimination in promotion.
Senior Advocate Rekha Palli stood on the behalf of women naval officers. The officers mentioned that after the Delhi High Court judgment of 2010, the Defence Ministry and the Naval Administration ought to have themselves taken steps to reinstate and grant permanent commission to the officers of the Indian Navy.” The officers had also challenged a 2008 decision of the Navy to grant Permanent Commission only to women who joined after that year and that too only in the Education, Law and Naval Architecture branches.
The officers claimed that they had received appropriate training and had been working as SSC officers in other departments for several years. Delhi High Court had issued notices in the case to the Naval Chief and the Defence Ministry for clarifying their opinion on the issue. The court had asked them to explain the criteria adopted by them in case of women and men officers while deciding on the permanent commission. Delhi High Court said women officers serving in the Navy should be offered permanent commissions once they complete their short service stints. The court also said it would “frown upon any endeavor to block progress of women.”
Judges said, “We must say that women are here to stay and are walking shoulder to shoulder with men in all spheres.” The bench also quoted a couplet written by well-known 20th century poet Majaz Lakhnawi. “Tere maathe pe ye anchal bahut khoob hai, lekin tu is anchal se ek parcham bana leti to achcha tha (The veil on your head is beautiful, but it would be better if you made a flag from it).”
Following the decision, the navy may have to review its rules banning women on ships. Women officers serve in the administrative, medical and education branches for the naval forces., they are also taken on aircraft as “observers”, to monitor censors.