New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday informed the Supreme Court that the armed forces have decided to induct women into the National Defence Academy (NDA).
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice S K Kaul that a decision has been taken at the highest level of the armed forces. The ASG added that females will be inducted for permanent commission through the NDA.
The ASG sought apex court’s permission to place the details on record through an affidavit and sought status quo in this year’s exams as they need procedural and infrastructural changes.
The top court said it has been periodically nudging the authorities to take such steps themselves and believes that they are best suited to evolve the whole.
The bench said it would like the defence forces to take more proactive approach towards gender equality instead of court directing them to do so.
“The idea is when nothing happens, the court steps in. Let me assure you it’s not a happy situation to step in and we would like the armed services to do it themselves. They are very respected forces of the country but on gender equality they have to do more and sometimes the resistance does not come out well,” said the bench, also comprising Justice M M Sundresh.
“I am happy that the heads of armed forces have taken a positive decision. Put on record, we will take up the matter. We are happy with the stand. Let us hear the matter next week. Reforms cannot happen in a day. We are also conscious of that,” it said.
The ASG told the bench that the thought was already there in their minds but it was only at the seeding stage.
The matter has been listed after two weeks.
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra that raised the issue of exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates from joining the prestigious NDA solely on the ground of gender, which allegedly is a violation of fundamental right of equality.
The plea said the authorities allow unmarried male candidates having adequate 10+2 qualification to take the ‘National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination’, but eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take the examination on the sole ground of their gender and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations within the Constitution.
It alleged that this act of discrimination is a “dishonour committed” by the authorities concerned to the Constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination.
“The act of the respondents to categorically exclude eligible and willing female candidates from appearing for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination over the years, solely on the ground of sex, is a violation of the fundamental right of equality before the law and equal protection of the law,” it said.
The consequence of this denial is that they do not have access to any mode of entry to join the armed forces as officers, it said.
“Whereas, equally and similarly situated male candidates with 10+2 level of education have the opportunity to take the examination and after qualifying join the National Defence Academy to get trained to be commissioned as permanent commissioned officers in the Indian armed forces,” the plea said.
It said that UPSC conducts the ‘National Defence Academy & Naval Academy Examination’ and as per eligibility criteria, any unmarried male candidate with the required educational qualification and aged between 15-18 years can appear in it.
It said the candidate, on qualifying the exam and on successful completion of training at the NDA and subsequent training at the respective academy of the service the cadet opts for, gets commissioned into the service as a permanent commissioned officer by the age of 19-22 years old.
“This opportunity to take the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination at the age of 15-18 years, with the eligible academic qualifications is not available to eligible and willing female candidates and the sole reason for this categorical exclusion is on the basis of their sex,” the plea said.
It claimed that the duration of training for the Short Service Commission women officers is very less compared to the training that a male permanent commission officer, who gets entry through the NDA, gains.
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