A bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and A.S. Bopanna, noted in the order, “The 11 women officers will be granted PC within a period of 10 days. The ASG (additional solicitor general) states that officers, who are not before the Supreme Court in contempt proceedings, but meet the criteria will be granted PC within the period of three weeks.”
Earlier during the day, the bench had told the Army that it will hold it guilty of contempt for not granting PC to women officers, in accordance with its order. The Army’s counsel had said the decision regarding the remaining women officers will be taken speedily and sought some time to take instructions in the matter.
As the bench started dictating the order in the matter, the counsel representing the Army told the court that it was ready to grant PC to 11 officers who had moved the top court.
The bench noted that the Army may be supreme in its authority, but the constitutional court is also supreme.
The bench said, “We have given you a long rope…. The remarks we had made in the judgement allowing you to file an affidavit on the consideration taken was to ensure that you say what you are doing.”
In the post lunch hearing, the bench noted that it has been clarified that those officers, who do not have disciplinary and vigilance proceedings, will also be eligible for grant of PC in accordance with its judgment. It further added that two Lt. Colonel Akansha Shrivastava and Himalini Pant would also be duly considered for PC, as per the criteria laid down, within one month.
ASG Sanjay Jain and senior advocate colonel R. Balasubramanian, appeared for the Centre and Ministry of Defence in the matter. They submitted before the top court that the Army is also keen for this matter to achieve finality.
The bench noted that out of 72 officers, one had applied for premature release, 39 have been granted PC and a letter has been issued on October 29, 2021 in compliance with its verdict.
A total of 36 officers were not considered for PC. After a review, 21 out of the 36 officers were granted PC and the case of one is under consideration. And, out of the remaining 14 officers, three are considered medically unfit.
In March this year, the top court, in a judgment, had invalidated certain terms in the evaluation criteria adopted by the Indian Army for grant of PC to women officers as “arbitrary and irrational”.
The top court had held that the evaluation criteria perpetuated gender stereotypes based on patriarchal notions and amounted to “systemic discrimination”. The top court verdict came on a batch of petitions filed by women officers challenging the rejection of their applications seeking PC in the Indian Army.