In the plea filed with the SC, the women officers alleged that they were discriminated against by the special selection board convened two months ago, which reportedly considered male officers much junior to them for promotion
The Army is not being fair to women officers, remarked the Supreme Court (SC) on Friday as it failed to find a justification behind the Army conducting a selection board for promoting male officers in October while holding up the seniority of women officers who got permanent commissions by the court’s intervention till additional posts are created.
“We feel you (Army) have not been fair to these women officers,” said a bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dhananjaya Y Chandrachud and justice PS Narasimha following a petition filed by 34 women officers who complained that they ought to have been considered along with their male counterparts when the ‘Selection Board-3’ was convened in October this year.
The 34 women army officers who have filed the plea, include Col Priyamvada A Mardikar and Col Asha Kale, who are permanent commissioned officers.
Additional solicitor general (ASG) Sanjay Jain told the SC that 150 vacancies have been created for which the selection board will consider these women officers. “We are equally concerned about these women officers,” Jain said. To this, the bench said, “We agree you are concerned but not your organization.” The SC further posted the matter for hearing on Monday.
Wondering what stopped the Army from considering the women officers in the October selection board meeting, the SC said, “We are going to pass peremptory orders. Set your house in order. Do not announce the results of the selection board-3 for the male officers till you hold the board for the women officers.”
Earlier on November 21, the Army, represented by senior advocate R Balasubramanian told the top court that 150 posts were in the final stages of approval from the Centre. However, senior advocate V Mohana, who appeared for the women officers, told the SC that the delay to convene the selection board forced them to serve under their junior gentleman officers in a highly seniority-conscious organization such as the Indian Army.
The women officers had seniority ranging from 1992 to 2007 and some were even set to retire by the next year. The application filed on their behalf stated that on November 23, 2021, the Army announced that as an ‘exception and one-time measure’, a special no. 3 selection board was to be conducted for women officers, to promote them to the colonel rank officers (select grade). They were even required to undergo a middle-level tactical orientation course (MLTOC) to become fully eligible for consideration by the selection board.
“The respondents had no justifiable reason to delay in conducting selection board no. 3 for the senior women officers,” the application said.
In the plea filed with the SC, the women officers alleged that they were discriminated against by the special selection board convened two months ago, which reportedly considered male officers much junior to them for promotion.
The plea further stated, “Even after 18 months from the judgment dated March 25, 2021, the respondents (Army) have not conducted special no. 3 selection board, due to which consequential benefits including promotion, financial benefits, study leave, deputation, absorption etc. have not been granted to the women officers.”
ASG Jain assured the court that the grievance of the women applicants will be resolved.