The government has told the Supreme Court that it will not be possible to grant permanent commission status to women officers in combat wings like infantry, mechanised infantry and armoured corps.
In an additional affidavit filed before the apex court, the defence ministry has said that combat support arms/ services have to sustain prolonged conflict hazards and hence there is no question of grant of permanent status to women officers, either now or in the future.
The ministry has filed the affidavit in connection with the appeal filed by it challenging the Delhi high court's judgment directing the Centre to grant permanent commission status to women short service commissioned officers in the Air Force and the Army.
The Centre, while agreeing to implement the direction with regard to the Air Force, has expressed its opposition to extending the benefit to women in the Army combat and its support units.
"That the grant of permanent commission to women officers in combat arms like infantry, mechanised infantry and armoured corps, which are involved in direct combat with the enemy is ruled out because of their close proximity with the enemy and attendant hazards of battle. As regards granting permanent commission to women officers in combat support arms like engineers, signals, army air defence, intelligence and services like electronics mechanical engineers, army service corps and army ordnance corps, the issue has been examined at length," the Centre said, justifying its stance.
"Combat role of women officers must be excluded not only for the present, but as a matter of policy for all times. The basic role of an army is to fight the enemy whether internal or external and guard the territorial integrity of the nation. Women officers, therefore, cannot be employed in combat in the foreseeable future, because of its attendant hazards and trauma, including the possibility of being made prisoners of war," the ministry stated.
It further said that a woman officer's prolonged absence from a unit due to inherent amily related issues is also highly detrimental to the overall efficacy of the units as a cohesive fighting force.
"Besides, there is an ever growing demand for spouse/choice postings from women officers, which is adversely impacting the management officers to the detriment of male officers," the government argued.
The Centre also said that women officers' response, when detailed on various courses which are crucial for career progression, is far from encouraging.
"Women officers have declined to go on courses of instructions due to various reasons ranging from family commitments to personal problems. In addition, numerous requests for choices/spouse posting have also been received from women officers," the affidavit said in justification of its stance.
Lawyer Rekha Palli, who has been involved in several legal cases of getting permanent commission for women in non-combat arms, said, "Women have to be given their rights and allowed to join the arms of their choice."
She said women started getting recruited in 1991 and have achieved many feats in the force to prove their mettle.
Defence Minister A K Antony had stated in Parliament that there was no proposal to induct women in combat arms of the three services.
"Induction of women in combat duties has not been recommended by the studies carried out by the headquarters Integrated Defence Staff in 2006 and high level tri-services committee in 2011," he had said.