Gender discrimination, says SC ordering Rs 60 lakh compensation for Kerala woman fired from job due to marriage

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court on India. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: Terminating the services of a woman on account of marriage under a service rule is a “coarse case” of gender discrimination and inequality, and acceptance of such patriarchal norms undermines human dignity, the Supreme Court has said.

The apex court made a strong observation in a case where former lieutenant Selina John, a native of Kerala, was released from her job in the Military Nursing Service on account of her marriage.
The top court directed the Centre to pay a compensation of Rs 60 lakh to Selina.

We are unable to accept any submission that the respondent Ex-lieutenant Selina John, who was a Permanent Commissioned Officer in the Military Nursing Service, could have been released or discharged on the ground that she had got married.

This rule, it is accepted, was applicable to only women nursing officers. Such a rule was ex-facie manifestly arbitrary, as terminating employment because the woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality. Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, the right to non-discrimination and fair treatment, a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said.

The order came on the appeal by the central government against an order of the Lucknow regional bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal declaring John's release from service as wrong and illegal. The bench said the tribunal's order did not require any interference.

It noted that her service was terminated according to Army Instruction No. 61 of 1997, titled Terms and Conditions of Service for the Grant of Permanent Commissions in the Military Nursing Service' which was withdrawn in August 1995.

Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct the appellant (Union of India) to pay compensation of Rs sixty lakh to the respondent within eight weeks, the apex court said.

It, however, modified the tribunal's order directing John's reinstatement along with back wages and other benefits, saying the compensation would be the full and final settlement of all claims made by the ex-officer. 

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