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SC UPHOLDS RIGHT OF WOMEN NAVAL OFFICERS

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

The Supreme Court on 17th March 2020, upheld the right of serving Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers of the Navy to be granted permanent commission (PC) on a par with their male counterparts.

Observations in the Judgement

  • All the “excuses” given against the Permanent Commission for women- including motherhood and physiological limitations, reeked of a stereotypical mind-set.
  • The battle for gender equality is about confronting the battles of the mind.
  • In the context of the Armed Forces, specious reasons have been advanced by decision makers and administrators.
  • They range from physiology, motherhood and physical attributes to the male dominated hierarchies.
  • Women officers have worked shoulder to shoulder with their men counterparts in every walk of service.
  • The policy letter of February 25, 1999 issued by the Ministry of Defence to the Chief of the Naval Staff, emphatically stipulating that women officers of all branches/cadres could be directed to serve on board ships, both during training and subsequent employment in accordance with the exigencies of service.

Highlights of the Judgement

  • The court quashed the stipulation in the policy letter of September 26, 2008, making permanent commission for women prospective and restricting its application to specified cadres/branches of the Navy.
  • It directed that SSC women officers found suitable for the grant of PC shall be entitled to all consequential benefits, including arrears of pay, promotions and retirement benefits as and when due.

Background

  • Recruits under the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES) had a shorter pre-commission training period than their male counterparts who were commissioned under the Short Service Commission (SSC) scheme.
  • In 2006, the WSES scheme was replaced with the SSC scheme, which was extended to women officers. They were commissioned for a period of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years.
  • Serving WSES officers were given the option to move to the new SSC scheme, or to continue under the erstwhile WSES. They were to be however, restricted to roles in streams specified earlier — which excluded combat arms such as infantry and armoured corps.
  • While male SSC officers could opt for permanent commission at the end of 10 years of service, this option was not available to women officers.
  • They were, thus, kept out of any command appointment, and could not qualify for government pension, which starts only after 20 years of service as an officer.

Short Service Commission (SSC)

  • SSC or Short Service commission in Indian Forces is the tenure of officers.
  • In Indian Army, the SSC Short Service commission officer’s tenure is 10+4 years. After the completion of this tenure the male officers can either opt for a Permanent commission or can opt out of the Indian Army.
  • The training academy for SSC Short Service commission officers is OTA Chennai, or Officers Training Academy Chennai.
  • There are various options through which you can join OTA. You can join OTA through a written exam conducted by UPSC twice a year and then passing the 5 day SSB interview and clearing the medicals.

Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB)

  • Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) is one of India’s Central Armed Police Forces.
  • It is currently under the administrative control of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India.
  • Prior to 2001, the force was known as the Special Service Bureau (SSB).
  • The Special Service Bureau (also abbreviated SSB) was set up in early 20 December 1963, following the Sino-Indian War.



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