Calling for a “change in mindsets”, the Supreme Court in a momentous ruling on Monday directed that women officers of the Indian Army, serving under Short Service Commission, be considered for grant of Permanent Commission irrespective of tenure of service and also for command posts in non-combat areas since “an absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14”.

Stating that “the absolute exclusion of women” from all command assignments except staff assignments is “indefensible”, the bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi, rejecting arguments against giving greater role to women officers, said their non-eligibility for command posts will be considered on case-to-case basis. It said “necessary steps for compliance with this judgment shall be taken within three months”.

Underlining that “women officers of the Indian Army have brought laurels to the force”, the bench described as “disturbing” the attempts to dilute their role “by the repeated pleas made before this Court that women, by the nature of their biological composition and social milieu have a less important role to play than their male counterparts”.

The Supreme Court rejected the Centre’s arguments against greater role for women officers, saying these violated equality under law. They were being kept out of command posts on the reasoning that the largely rural rank and file will have problems with women as commanding officers. The biological argument was also rejected as disturbing.

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