New Delhi:The Defence Ministry has informed the Supreme Court that a notification allowing women candidates to appear for the entrance exam to the National Defence Academy (NDA) will be out by May next year.
Keeping the timeline in mind, deliberate planning and meticulous preparation is needed to ensure smooth induction and seamless training of women candidates, it said.
"The Government, in line with its commitment, hereby place on record its clear and categorical stand that the women candidates shall be considered for entry in the three defence services, in the existing streams, through NDA," the ministry said in an affidavit filed before the top court.
The NDA entrance exams are held twice a year and the government proposes to have necessary mechanisms in place by May 2022, the time by which UPSC is required to publish the first notification next year, for the exam, it said.
A Study Group has been constituted by the Defence services, comprising of experts to expeditiously formulate the curriculum for women cadets at NDA, it said, adding that a Board of Officers has been convened to give a holistic and futuristic proposal for training them.
In order to appear for the exam, candidates are required to meet the eligibility criteria which includes physical standards like height and weight, it said.
While medical standards for male cadets are in place, they are being formulated for women, it said, adding that it needs to be finalised before they join the Academy.
Directorate General Armed Forces Medical Services and the body of experts will undertake that for the three Defence services, the ministry said.
Various aspects like young age, nature of training to be undergone by women candidates as also functional/ operational requirements of the Army, Navy and Air Force has to be taken into account, it said.
"There being no parallel standards for the Women Candidates at the age of entry to NDA. Besides imparting education, Training includes Physical Training, Military Training, Games and Sports and related activities to shape the officer cadets into competent officers and proficient soldiers. While the education curriculum is well set, all the rest of aspects of the training are required to be formulated separately for the women candidates," the affidavit stated.
The ministry said that curriculum and parameters like outdoor training - drill, equitation, swimming, games, sports - need to be formulated.
"Any dilution of physical training and service subject like parameters of firing, endurance training, field craft and living off the land kind of aspects, for the Defence services' women cadets/ officers, would invariably impact the Battle worthiness of the Armed Forces adversely.
"That on the aspect of requirement of infrastructure, it is most respectfully submitted that based on the inputs and experience at other Pre-Commissioning Training Academies with reference to the training of women cadets, one of the key facets of accommodation of women cadets has to be a robust physical separation between the male and female residential areas," it said.
It said it will have to be examined that given the present infrastructural status in NDA, assuming that the process of UPSC notification towards induction of women cadets at NDA is to commence at the earliest in the next year and that too in the first half of the year, various preparatory actions are needed.
The ministry said that all cadets in the NDA are accommodated in cabins which are housed in Squadron Buildings. The number of cabins for women cadets, catering to an increase in numbers of women cadets each term, will have to be expanded over subsequent terms till the permanent plan fructifies, it said.
The existing sanitation/bathroom cubicles for women cadets will fall short of the requirements and shall require reconstruction/modification to maintain privacy, it added."With respect to the training capacity and other arrangements, various aspects are being put to place, inter-alia, security and privacy arrangements, physical segregation of living quarters and associated physical and electronic surveillance measures, i.e. women orderlies, woman duty officers and women instructors etc.
"Further, additional administrative and miscellaneous requirements in terms of gender specific kitting, ancillary requirements etc., shall also have to be worked out and executed simultaneously. Furthermore gynaecologists, sports medicine specialists, counsellors, nursing staff and lady attendants will also be required to be posted/ augmented at Military Hospital, Khadakwasla," the affidavit said.
The capacity of officers' Family Ward (Medical Facility) would also need to be increased for which additional projects shall have to be planned and executed, the ministry said.
The Centre had earlier told the top court that the armed forces have decided to induct women into the NDA. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, had said that a decision has been taken at the highest level of the armed forces as also the government that females will be inducted for permanent commission through the NDA.
The apex court was hearing a plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra which has raised the issue of exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates from joining the prestigious NDA solely on the ground of sex which allegedly is a violation of fundamental right of equality.
The plea said the authorities allow unmarried male candidates to take the 'NDA and Naval Academy Examination', but female candidates are not allowed on the sole ground of their sex and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations within the Constitution.
This discrimination is a dishonour to the Constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination, it said.The UPSC conducts the 'NDA & Naval Academy Examination' and any unmarried male candidate with the required educational qualification and aged between 15-18 years can appear in it. On qualifying and completion of training the candidate gets commissioned into the service as a permanent commissioned officer by the age of 19-22 years old, it said.
This opportunity to take the NDA and Naval Academy Examination at the age of 15-18 years, with the eligible academic qualifications is not available to female candidates and the sole reason for this categorical exclusion is on the basis of their sex, the plea said. It claimed that duration of training for the Short Service Commission women officers is very less compared to the training that a male permanent commission officer, who gets entry through the NDA, gains.