Apex court stays release order of 16 women army officers
As the Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the release of another 16 short service commission women army officers, it was told that the women officers whose services were restored earlier on its directions were not being promoted to the next rank even though they fulfilled the required criteria.
As the women officers made this plea, the court asked them not to club the challenge to their release order with the plea for promotion and file a separate petition on this. As the counsel Meenakshi Lekhi appearing for the women officers seeking permanent commissioning in the army told the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice H.L. Gokhale that though their services were restored after the court's order, they were not being considered for promotion.
Meenakshi Lekhi told the court that this was happening when these officers were meeting all the criterion for promotion to next rank. She told the court that these women officers were being made to work under officers junior to them. She said this was against the very essence of the command structure of the armed forces. The court observed that this issue was separate from the one it was dealing with and the petitioner will have to move separately for this.
At this Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman said that let them make a petition and the government will respond to it. The counsel Lekhi for the petitioner women officers told the court that though their release order had been stayed by the court they were not being given their salaries for months together. The court was told that women officers were being discriminated against. At this Justice Lodha said that "no one can be discriminated" against and observed that these officers would get their salaries.
Lekhi said that the issue of non-payment of salaries was raised in November last year and court had said that let us wait for two to three months and now six months have passed they are still not getting their salaries. On Tuesday, court stayed the release order of 16 women officers by the Ministry of Defence. Lekhi told the court that while the army had extended their service tenure till the time the issue was adjudicated by the apex court, the defence ministry was ordering their release from service.
The court is hearing a petition by the Defence Ministry challenging the Delhi High Court verdict directing the army and air force to grant permanent commission to women officers of the short service commission. The defence ministry has also moved the apex court challenging the initiation of contempt proceedings against the army authorities for not complying with its directions of March 12, 2010. Air Force had complied with the high court judgment.
However, the apex court by its March 4, 2011 order stayed the contempt proceedings but not the judgment of the high court directing the absorption of short service commission women officers on permanent basis. The apex court order restoring the services of these women officers had said that it was subject to the outcome of the government's challenge to the Delhi High Court direction of March 12, 2010.