Defence Ministry, Indian Navy file appeal in Supreme Court opposing permanent commission for women officers

New Delhi(web team): The Ministry of Defence under Manohar Parrikar and the Indian Navy have moved the Supreme Court against a Delhi HC order allowing permanent commission for women officers, says Indian Express.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar

The MoD and the Chief of Naval Staff have argued that such commission is ‘something that the law itself bars’ and such an order would ‘annihilate the functional autonomy of the armed forces’.

Challenging the order of the Delhi High Court, which said on September 4 that women officers in the Navy should be offered permanent commission after they complete their short service stints, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Chief of Naval Staff have said that it violates the principle of ‘separation of powers’ between different wings. They have said that it severely affects the operational structure and administrative exigencies in the Indian Navy.

Interestingly, the appeal claims that the order would affect the seniority of personnel and their opportunities for promotion in the Navy. But it also believes the order is discriminatory because no male officer who has been recruited under the SSC has been offered permanent commission.

Another contention of the appellants is that the Delhi HC has assumed the role of ‘decision maker for the Indian Navy’. The Navy has claimed intrusion into its policies, saying the HC ‘nullified its policy without any cogent reason or basis’.

The Delhi HC had observed that since all three arms of the military – Army, Navy and Air Force – come under the government, they cannot have different laws. The Navy opposes this , stating that “there are wide variations between the functions of all three services and each service is given the liberty to choose the policies conducive to meet service-specific standards.”

Reacting to the development, women officers said to the Indian Express that it was a ‘betrayal’ by the government. They said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had promised them that he would dissuade the Navy from filing an appeal. “The Navy’s decision to appeal against the reinstatement of lady officers proves what the HC had stated… that the Indian government is proud to showcase women power but in reality, the picture is entirely different,” the officers told The Indian Express.

Last month, the Delhi HC had allowed pleas filed by 19 women officers in the education, logistics and ATC branches of the Navy, who had completed the 14 years of their SSC. It had further stated that it believed a ‘sexist bias’ existed in the present rules.

The officers had also challenged a 2008 decision of the Navy to grant permanent commission only to women who joined after that year, and that too only in the education, law and naval architecture branches.