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487 out of 615 women officers granted PC, court lauds COAS

Source: PTI
December 06, 2021 23:00 IST
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The Centre and Army authorities Monday told the Supreme Court that after its last year's verdict, 487 Women Short Service Commission Officers (WSSCOs) have been granted Permanent Commission out of the 615 who were considered for it.

The top court which recorded its appreciation for all the concerned authorities including Chief of Army Staff for acting fair and objective manner to resolve the issue directed that 12 WSSCOs, who have been released from service during the pendency of proceedings, shall be deemed to continue in service and be granted the Permanent Commission (PC).

 

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was all praise for the Army authorities for their earnest efforts and acting in a fair and objective manner and said that this is heralding a new era in the Armed forces.

"Army authorities have been very-very fair in these proceedings. There has been a complete change in mindset. We have been reading recent statements of the Chief of Naval staff about the women officers, who are being trained and being posted on warships. This is heralding a new era in the Armed forces", it said.

During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain and senior advocate R Balasubramanian, appearing for Centre and the Army authorities, said that there is an earnest desire that the entire dispute concerning those WSSCOs, who were not granted permanent commission may be resolved finally.

Jain gave the break-up which was recorded by the court in its order that WSSCOs who were eligible for consideration for the grant of PC post-February 17, 2020 verdict was 615 out of which 86 officers did not opt for it bringing the total for consideration to 529.

"Out of 529 WSSCOs 487 have been granted PC", Jain said, adding that out of the remaining 42 officers 21 were found to be medically unfit and have been released.

He said that out of the remaining 21 officers, one officer has opted out, and in the case of five others--three cases are under disciplinary and vigilance inquiry and one case has been referred to a special board because of redressal of the grievances and medical documents of one officer are under scrutiny.

"Of the remaining cases, 15 WSSCOs were considered for the grant of PC of which 14 have qualified for the grant of PC. Of these 14 WSSCOs, 12 have been formally released during the pendency of the proceedings while two WSSCOs are yet to be released. Since their release date is March 1, 2022", the bench recorded.

It said, "Before proceedings to issue directions in terms of the statement made on behalf of the UOI and the Army authorities, the court wishes to record its appreciation of the fair and objective manner in which all concerned authorities have responded to the earnest effort to resolve the pending issues".

The bench said that ASG Sanjay Jain has stated that he has taken instructions, at the highest level.

"This court wishes to record its appreciation of the fair position which has been adopted by the Chief of Army Staff. This court also expresses its appreciation of the sincere efforts put by the ASG and senior advocate R Balasubramanian in bringing the fair resolution of the pending issues so as to obviate the officers, who have been granted PC be required to pursue any further litigation", the bench said.

It directed that in the case of 12 officers, who were released from service during the pendency of proceedings shall be deemed to have continued without any break, as to the grant of Permanent Commission and two officers who are yet to be released should also be granted the PC.

"In the event, any of the above WSSCOs who have been granted PC and instituted proceedings before the AFT, those proceedings shall stand disposed of in terms of the order", the bench directed.

On November 22, the top court had asked the Army to have a relook into the case of WSSCOs, who were denied PC as they failed to get threshold 60 per cent marks after being assessed based on the Unit Assessment Card (UAC) system which prevailed in the Army from 1999 to 2005.

On November 12, the top court had threatened the Army with contempt action against it and its Chief Manoj Mukund Naravane over non-compliance with its earlier orders after which the defence force had agreed to grant PC to all of its eligible women officers.

With the direction of the top court, 68 out of the total 71 WSSCOs who were earlier denied PC were granted the permanent commission. Initially, 72 officers were denied the PC but later one officer had opted to quit. Three officers have been found medically unfit.

The women officers had alleged that the top court's March 25 ruling was not considered by the Army and all 72 of them were rejected from consideration for the PC at one go.

In its March 25 verdict, the Army was directed by the top court to consider granting PC to the WSSCOs subject to their obtaining 60 per cent marks in the assessment subjects, being found fit on medical criteria as per the August 1, 2020 order of the Army and having received disciplinary and vigilance clearances.

On February 17 last year, in a landmark verdict, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted a permanent commission, rejecting the Centre's stand of their physiological limitations as being based on "sex stereotypes" and "gender discrimination against women".

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