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  • Navtej Tyagi

Breaking Barriers: How the Apex Court's Recent Verdict is Empowering Women in the Military

Navtej Tyagi,

Babu Banarasi Das University, Lucknow

Women Military

Laws centered around gender-based bias unconstitutional, it says; directed government to provide compensation to a female permanent commissioned officer.

Acclaimed journalist Tian Wei once said, “Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the modern world.”

Our Indian laws have always tried to preserve the principle of gender equality. The honourable Apex Court has always worked for the protection of women’s rights in the workplace. The best example of it is the “Vishaka Guidelines” passed for the protection of women from sexual harassment at the workplace. In the same way the honorable Supreme Court has again struck down discriminatory rule against women in Military Nursing Service.

In a historic decision, the Apex Court has made a remarkable impact in fighting against the horrible practice of gender discrimination. The Supreme Court has determined that regulations which discriminate against women employees based on marriage or domestic issues are unconstitutional. The court determined that the ending of employment for a woman getting married leads to “coarse gender discrimination”.

An honorable Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta instructed the Central Government to pay Former Lieutenant Selina John Rs. 60 lakhs in compensation within eight weeks as a full and final settlement of all her claims. 

The observations were from a ruling of the court in the case of Union of India v. Ex. LT. Selina  John[i] supported the rights of a female permanent commissioned officer in the Military  Nursing Service who was discharged for marrying.

In this case, a permanent commissioned officer, Lt. Selina John of Military Nursing Service, was relieved from service by the army in August 1988. The order for termination was issued under a 1977 Army rule called the “Terms and conditions of service for granting permanent commissions in the Military Nursing Service” which was later cancelled in 1995.

In March 2016, the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in Lucknow, overturned John’s release order and instructed her to be reinstated with back wages, Subsequently, in August, 2016 the central government contested the decision in the higher court.

The honorable Supreme dismissed the Centre’s appeal, and found that the rule against marriage was applicable only to women nursing officers. The rule thus was “ex facie manifestly arbitrary”. It further added that acceptance of such rules that represent patriarchy undermines human dignity, the right to non- discrimination and fair treatment. The order also mentioned past decisions of the top court that emphasized that no law or rule should allow gender discrimination. It stated that considering marriage or domestic issues as reasons for disqualification of women employees involves a ground of disentitlement and would be unconstitutional.

Men and Women are the two pans of a beam balance, or we can say feathers of the same bird. In the absence of one, the other will be meaningless and of no worth. It is significant to ensure that both of them align with each other in all fields of life. This will be instrumental in the advancement of the world.


[i] CA 1990 OF 2019

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