The Defence Ministry told 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 2022.
Earlier, the ministry had said that a decision has been taken to allow the induction of women into the Armed Forces through the NDA. Filing an affidavit, the ministry said that keeping the timeline in mind, deliberate planning and meticulous preparation is needed to ensure smooth induction and seamless training of such women candidates.
“The Government of India, 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 National Defence Academy,” the affidavit stated.
It further said that the NDA entrance exams are held twice a year and the government proposes to have the necessary mechanism in place by May 2022, the time by which the UPSC is required to publish the first notification next year, for the exam.
The affidavit also stated that a study group has been constituted by the Defence services comprising experts to expeditiously formulate a curriculum for women cadets at the NDA and a Board of Officers has been convened to frame a futuristic proposal for training of women cadets at NDA incorporating all relevant aspects.
“Any dilution of physical training and service subject like firing, etc. would invariably impact the battle worthiness of the Armed Forces adversely,” it added.
It also stated the need to have a robust physical separation between male and female residential areas for which new residential facilities have to be developed to accommodate the women candidates including bathroom cubicles with modifications to maintain privacy.
“Some time is needed to construct additional bathrooms, cabins, training facilities and develop curriculum for the new joinees,” the Ministry of Defence told the apex court.
“Only medically fit candidates meeting the selection criteria are allowed to join the Academy. They are also required to meet laid down medical standards. While medical standards for male cadets are in place, appropriate medical standards for women candidates are in the process of formulation. The same needs to be done before they join,” the affidavit added.
A Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had asked the ministry to put the statement of inducting women into the Armed Forces through the NDA, on record through an affidavit
The court was hearing a plea seeking to allow women to take part in the NDA exams.
Earlier, the top court while allowed female candidates to sit for the NDA exam on September 5, however, the exam was postponed.
It had also slammed the government and Army for not allowing women to take part in NDA exams. “It’s a policy decision which is based on gender discrimination. We direct the Centre and Army to take a constructive view of the matter…,” the Bench had said expressing displeasure on “regressive mindset”.
The petition was filed in the apex court seeking directions to allow eligible female candidates to join the NDA and the Indian Naval Academy (INA) at par with the men.
The plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra stated that denial of opportunity to women candidates to enrol at the NDA is violative of Articles 14, 15, 16 and 19 of the Constitution.
It stated that the eligible and willing female candidates being denied the opportunity of entry to the National Defence Academy “on the basis of their sex and thereby systematically and categorically excluding eligible female candidates” the opportunity to train at the premier joint training institute of the Indian Armed Forces which, at a later point of time, becomes a hurdle in the career advancement opportunities for Female Officers in the Armed Forces.
The petition was filed in light of the directions issued by the top court on an extension of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commissioned women officers of the Indian Army.
The plea said, “After the passing of the judgment in the matter of Secretary, Ministry of Defence vs Babita Puniya by this Court, Permanent Commission has been extended to the Women Officers of the Army. However, there is still no mode of entry available to female candidates to join the Armed Forces as Permanent Commission Officers. In the present state of affairs, female candidates have to apply through the appropriate mode of entry into the Armed Forces as a Short Service Commissioned Officer and after serving for a certain period of time, have the option to opt for Permanent Commission.”
It added that granting permanent commission to the Short Service Commission women officers is only half a measure to restore equality of opportunity in the Army.
“The categorical exclusion of women to train at the National Defence Academy and get commissioned into the Armed Forces of the Country as Permanent Commissioned Officers solely on the basis of their sex is a denial of the Fundamental Right to Practice any Profession and it is not justifiable within the contours of the Indian Constitution,” it added.
“The government allow unmarried male candidates having adequate 10+2 qualification to take the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination, however, eligible and willing female candidates are not allowed to take this Examination on the sole ground of their sex and without any reasonable or justifiable explanations,” the petitioner contended.