Judgement of the day: Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya
Dr. Dhanunjaya Y Chandrachud, J and Hemant Gupta
A quest for equality of opportunity for women seeking Permanent Commissions in the Indian Army forms the basis of these appeals. The lead appeal originated in a batch of Writ Petitions which were instituted before the High Court of Delhi in 2003 and 2006. A decade and more spent in litigation, women engaged on Short Service Commissions in the Army seek parity with their male counterparts in obtaining PCs.
In February 2003, Babita Puniya, an advocate instituted a Writ Petition in the nature of a Public Interest Litigation before the Delhi High Court for the grant of PC to women SSC officers in the Army. Apart from the PIL which was instituted before the High Court of Delhi, a Writ Petition was filed by Major Leena Gaurav on 16 October 2006 primarily to challenge the terms and conditions of service imposed by the circulars dated 20 July 2006 and for seeking the grant of PCs for women officers.
The Writ Petitions were heard together by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court. By a judgment dated 12 March 2010, the High Court issued directions, which were subsequently not complied with, hence the present appeal.
The policy decision which has been taken by the Union Government allowing for the grant of PCs to SSC women officers in all the ten streams where women have been granted SSC in the Indian Army is accepted subject to the following: -
1. All serving women officers on SSC shall be considered for the grant of PCs irrespective of any of them having crossed fourteen years or, as the case may be, twenty years of service.
2. The option shall be granted to all women presently in service as SSC officers.
3. The expression “in various staff appointments only” in para 5 and “on staff appointments only” in para 6 shall not be enforced; with respect to PC of women.
4. At the stage of opting for the grant of PC, all the choices for specialization shall be available to women officers on the same terms as for the male SSC officers. Women SSC officers shall be entitled to exercise their options for being considered for the grant of PCs on the same terms as their male counterparts.
5. The order of the Delhi High Court is affirmed in this case.
6. SSC women officers who are granted PC in pursuance of the above directions will be entitled to all consequential benefits including promotion and financial benefits.