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SC suspends order on permanent commission for women in navy 

New Delhi, Nov 20 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Friday suspended the operation of a Delhi High Court order directing the navy to grrant permanent commission to all its women serving as short service commission officers.

However, an apex court bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice V. Gopala Gowda said officers on whose plea the high court had on September 4 issued the order and who were in service in September 2008 when the navy extended the permanent commission to its short service commission women officers will continue to serve with the same terms and conditions.

The apex court order came as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told it that the high court had erroneously held it as a case of gender discrimination, overlooking the fact that in the navy neither men nor women – who are commissioned under short service category – can be given permanent commission.

The court was told that navy has permitted permanent commissioning for the women officers in the logistics, law and education branches.

Rohatgi, assisted by counsel R. Balasubramanian, said the high court order would result in the women officers seeking permanent commission who were not petitioners before the high court or had even retired.

The court was told that the navy’s women officers had moved the high court after its 2010 order in the Babita Punia case when it directed their permanent commissioning.

The high court in its March 12, 2010 order directed the army and air force to grant the women officers permanent commission who were serving the ground and air forces as short service commission officers.

Women officer in navy are commissioned for short service with a maximum term of 14 years and that makes them ineligible for pension which requires a minimum 20 years of service.

In fact no short service commission officer, male or female, is entitled for pension.

Nineteen short service commission women officers had moved six writ petitions before the high court seeking permanent commissions.

The Delhi high court had on September 4 allowed the pleas of the 19 officers – both retired and serving – for permanent commissions, saying that it would “frown upon any endeavour to block progress of women”.

Seeking permanent commission, the women officers had alleged gender discrimination operated against them.

Observing that the “sexist bias and service bias would not be allowed to block progress of women”, the high court by its September order had said that naval women officers can now have full term service and can avail of retirement benefits.

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