The Supreme Court on August 18 ordered that women can sit for the upcoming National Defence Academy (NDA) examination. The court said that the policy that restricts women’s entry into the institution is based on “gender discrimination” and criticized the mindset of providing equal opportunities to women.
The direction came on a PIL that advocate Kush Kalra had filed, urging the NDA to open its doors for women who aspire to join the Army.
“We keep passing orders after orders, but the Army will not change its mindset. I am finding it absurd now. It is like the Army will act only when judicial orders are passed. Air force and navy are far more liberal but Army does not believe in taking voluntary decision till the courts pass orders… There is a relevant bias in the Army not to implement even the orders,” justice Kaul told additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati, who appeared for the Centre and the department of defence.
The top court directed that the UPSC take out a suitable corrigendum against the order’s backdrop and “give due publicity so that intent of the order is translated into effect.”
Senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, who represented the petitioner, cited the government’s counter-affidavit and said this is a policy decision and must not be interfered with by the court. He said that girls not being allowed to enter into the NDA does not mean any difficulty in their progression or any hindrance in their careers.
“We have received the counter-affidavit from the Union of India yesterday. In the counter affidavit, what they say is that it is purely a policy decision and should not be interfered with by the court and that because girls are not allowed to enter into NDA does not mean there is any difficulty in their progression or in their career,” Sharma was quoted as saying.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy said: “Why are you continuing in this direction? Even after Justice Chandrachud’s judgment expanding the horizons and extending Permanent Commission in the Army to women? This is unfounded now! We are finding it absurd!”
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, who represented the Center, said that there are three modes of entry in the Army – the NDA, the Indian Military Academy, and the Officers’ Training Academy, and stated that women could enter through the last two.
At this, the bench asked: “Will the Army only act when a judicial order is passed? Not otherwise?”
In the Delhi High Court, Justice Kaul had authored the judgment granting permanent commission to women.
“You must begin with some tokenism. Don’t compel judicial intervention all the time! We, as an institution, must confess that we may not understand all intricate, technical aspects of your structure, you are better situated to appreciate that. But the broad principle of gender neutrality you must understand and adapt it in the backdrop of your peculiarities. Us passing blanket orders does not advance the cause,” Justice Kaul said.
Noting that no bar can be created for women in NDA, the top court stated that admissions, etc., will be subject to its final orders.