New Delhi: The Supreme Court, in an interim order, allowed women to appear for the entrance test for admission to the National Defence Academy (NDA).
The entrance exam is scheduled on 5 September.
However, Judges SK Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy made it clear that the results of the entrance test and the subsequent admission process would be subject to the final orders of the court.
It was Kush Kalra, a lawyer based in Delhi, who filed a petition challenging the practice of allowing only unmarried men to sit for the NDA entrance test. In the order, the apex court instructed that that the interim order allowing women to appear for NDA exam should be published as a revision notice.
The court added that the notice should be given enough publication too.
Centre blamed for regressive stand
The counsel appearing for the Central government told the court that it was a policy decision to limit the NDA entrance test for men and added that the court shouldn’t interfere in it. However, the Supreme Court reprimanded the central government saying that it was a policy decision based on gender discrimination.
Calling the Central government’s stand absurd, the apex court reminded about the historic order granting Permanent Commission for women and allowing them to be commanding officers of a military unit.
The court slammed the government for not taking the right measures despite having this precedent.
The Central government had argued that barring women to join the NDA was not a case of violation of fundamental rights. It added that the male officers who are trained at the NDA do not get any special advantages in their careers compared to their female counterparts.
The court, however, criticized the center’s stand in this matter as dismissive. “Will the Army do something only if the court passes an order? If that is the case, then we will do that,” said Justice Kaul in a scathing remark.
The government, meanwhile, argued that this was not like the issue of Permanent Commission.
In a landmark verdict on 17 February, 2020, the SC had directed that women officers in the Army be granted Permanent Commission.
'Why NDA is an exception'
Currently, the NDA, Indian Military Academy (IMA) and Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) enable officer recruitment to the Indian military.
Women are recruited to the military only through the OTA and the IMA.The Bench asked why women are allowed only through two sources. It questioned why the third option is closed for women. To this the Centre argued that the training modules are different and that this was ultimately a matter of national security.
When the court asked why men and women couldn’t study together, the Additional Solicitor General appearing for the government replied that the structure of admission was like that and it is a policy decision not allowing women to sit for the NDA entrance test.
The court called such regressive policy decisions gender discrimination. The Bench instructed the army to try to implement constructive decisions and measures that ensure representation of all categories.