On Wednesday, India’s Centre of Excellence informed the Supreme Court that women will be able to join the National Defence Academy (NDA) for permanent commission into the armed forces, calling it a ‘historic decision’ and seeking more time to define guidelines. Aishwarya Bhati, Additional Solicitor General, said to the court on a formal basis: ‘I am delighted to share this with you. NDA will admit girls. A detailed affidavit will be placed’.
In a public interest litigation petition, it was alleged that denying women the right to serve in NDA was a violation of their fundamental rights under Articles 14, 15, 16 and 19. In the last hearing of the case, the Court had allowed women candidates to appear for the NDA entrance exam.
According to Bar & Bench, Bhatti asked the court to grant status quo regarding the exams since procedural and infrastructure changes would be required. After reviewing the Centre’s stance on the issue, the Court appreciated it. The authorities have been nudged to act. ‘Although the armed forces are a respected branch in the country, they need to do more to ensure gender equality. We are pleased with the stand. The matter will be discussed next week. We are also aware that reforms cannot be accomplished in a day,’ the Court said.
In a landmark ruling in February 2020, the top court had ordered that women officers in the Army be granted Permanent Commission on par with their male counterparts. This was despite opposition by the Centre to the same. In March 2021, the Court had directed the Central government to allow Permanent Commission to women officers who were excluded from the same on the ground of unequal application of fitness standards.