In a major boost to gender equality for the Indian military, their Supreme Court today said women officers in the Army can get command and permanent commission on par with male officers.
The top court said comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi granted three months' time to the government, to allow permanent commission for all women officers who opt for it.
It said the absolute bar on granting command posts on women officers in the army is "irrational."
The apex court rejected the Indian government's argument of physiological limitations and social norms for denying permanent commission to women officers, saying a change of mindset is required on the government's part to end gender bias in the armed forces.
"To cast aspersions on gender is an affront to their dignity and to the country. Time has come that women officers are not adjunct to their male counterparts," said the SC.
"Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change," said the bench.
"Women work shoulder to shoulder with men. The Centre's (government's) submission is based on gender discrimination and stereotype. Women Army officers brought laurels to the county," the SC added.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in his Independence Day speech in August 2018 announced women officers in India's armed forces would soon have the option to take up permanent commission through the Short Service Commission.
At present, women officers in the army can serve for 10-14 years in the Short Service Commission. Women officers are allowed entry into Army Service Corps, Ordnance, Education Corps, Judge Advocate General, Engineers, Signals, Intelligence and Electrical and Mechanical Engineering branches.
But there is no option to allow women in the army in combat roles like infantry, armoured, mechanised infantry, aviation and artillery.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Indian Navy also grant permanent commission to women officers and have opened up limited combat roles.
The IAF allows women officers in flying and ground duties and flying helicopter, transport aircraft and even fighter jets.
In the navy, women officers inducted through short service commission are allowed in logistics, law, observers, air traffic control, maritime reconnaissance pilots and Naval Armament Inspectorate Cadre.