Feb 23, 2022

Gender Equality in the Armed Forces: Permanent Commission

The Supreme Court has asked the Central Government for an update on the status of women army officers’ permanent commission. Women army officers had approached the Court claiming that less than 50% of the women officers have been granted permanent commission by the Indian Army.


What is Permanent Commission?

Permanent commission (PC) allows officers to serve in the armed forces till they retire. This is different from Short Service Commission (SSC), which is for a specific period of 10 or 14 years.


How did the Court grant PC to women?

In a 2010 decision, the Delhi High Court granted PC to women serving as SSC officers in the Army and Air Force. The Air Force implemented the decision, but the Army appealed against the judgement and approached the Supreme Court.


Upholding the 2010 Delhi judgement, the Supreme Court on February 17, 2020 said that women SSC officers are also eligible to get PC in the Army, which was previously only granted to male officers. In its judgement, the Court criticised societal stereotypes that discriminate against women based on gender. The Court criticised the denial of PC based on flawed reasons of physiological differences between men and women, which portray women as the weaker sex. The Court held that differentiating women’s abilities based on gender is against the fundamental right of equality and dignity under the Constitution of India, 1950.


In its following judgement on March 17, 2020, the Court said that women SSC officers of the Navy can be granted PC, just like their male counterparts.


What is the impact on women officers in the armed forces?

  • Women serving as SSC officers are eligible for the grant of PC.
  • The period of service after which women SSC officers are entitled to submit applications for the grant of PC is the same as male officers. 
  • Women officers on SSC who don’t want to be considered for PC or who do not get PC can continue in service till their term comes to an end or till they reach the age of pensionable retirement. 
  • At the stage of opting for PC, all the choices for specialisation are available to women officers on the same terms as male SSC officers.
  • SSC women officers who are granted PC are entitled to all consequential benefits including promotion and financial benefits.