Centre withdraws appeal in SC
In a morale booster for women Army officers, the Defence Ministry withdrew its appeals against a 2012 Armed Forces Tribunal decision setting aside denial of promotions and benefits to Short Service and Women Commissioned Officers commissioned before 2006.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra agreed to the Ministry’s plea that the issue has been resolved and it would withdraw the case against the women commissioned officers, represented by advocate Aishwarya Bhati, who were denied due recognition and benefits despite years of service for the country.
On implementation of the recommendations of the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee, the government in 2004 had accepted promotions of army officers at two, six and 13 years of service to the ranks of Captain, Major and Lieutenant Colonel.
But though the promotions were made applicable to all commissioned officers, the benefit was later withheld from Short Service and Women Officers due to an interpretation by the Army’s Military Secretary’s (MS) Branch.
The benefits were not extended despite a gazette notification by the Ministry extending the same to the affected officers. The problem was confined to personnel in the Army.
In 2006, when the Short Service scheme was changed from 5+5+4 years system to 10+4 years system, the benefit was extended to officers opting for the new scheme resulting in a sharp disparity wherein senior officers were retired as substantive Lieutenants and Captains while their juniors could reach the Lieutenant Colonel-rank.
In 2012, on petitions filed by women officers and SSC officers, the Tribunal struck down this discrimination. But the Army and the Defence Ministry appealed in the Supreme Court.
An expert panel set up by the Defence Ministry in 2015 recommended the withdrawal of the appeal, and said that such unnecessary litigation was due to an “a self-created negative interpretation even when the scheme had been approved for all officers by the Cabinet.”