Following the Supreme Court's warning that it will prosecute Indian Army officers in contempt of court, the Army agreed to issue Permanent Commission to Women Short Service Commission Officers in accordance with the Lt Col Nitisha case verdict.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was hearing a contempt plea filed by 11 officers claiming the Army's failure to follow the Court's orders.
The petitioners claimed that despite meeting the qualifying conditions laid out by the Court in paragraph 120 of the ruling in the Lt Col Nitisha case, they were granted PC.
During the forenoon hearing, the bench stated that it appears that the orders are not being followed and threatened to hold the Army and the Ministry of Defence in contempt.
"While the army is ultimate in its own right, the constitutional court is also supreme," Justice Chandrahcud said.
At this point, the Additional Solicitor General of India Sanjay Jain requested that the issue be called at 2 p.m. to allow him time to obtain instructions.
At 2 p.m., ASG Sanjay Jain informed the court that, after consulting with army officials, the verdict in Nitisha's case will be fully executed by following the directives in para 120, and that all WSSCOs will be covered under para 120, PC shall be provided to those who have not yet been granted PC, subject to the conditions outlined in paragraph 120 of the decision.
According to the ASG, the appropriate orders in this regard will be issued within 10 days for the eleven applications before the Court, and within three weeks for the remaining officers.
The ASG explained that not only the 11 WSSCOs who have filed a contempt petition with the court as part of 72 and have yet to be awarded PC but also those officers who are not before the court but fulfil the requirements of para 120 will be granted PC, pending their desire.
The bench then issued an order documenting the ASG's submissions. To be on the safe side, the bench emphasised that officers with disciplinary and vigilance clearances will be eligible for a PC provided they fulfil the other standards outlined in para 120.
The bench stated that if any officers are ruled unsuitable for PC, they would get a reasoned order detailing the cause for denial. The bench dismissed the contempt petitions after issuing the aforesaid instructions.
The Supreme Court ruled on March 25 in Lt Col Nitisha v Union of India that some phrases in the Indian Army's appraisal process for granting PC to women officers were "arbitrary and unreasonable."
The Court determined that the evaluation criteria maintained patriarchal gender stereotypes and amounted to "systemic discrimination."
The decision came in a case involving a group of women officers who were fighting the denial of their applications for permanent commissions in the Indian Army.
Despite the Supreme Court's judgement in the Babita Puniya case, they claimed that the Army refused them permanent commission by applying an arbitrary threshold for medical fitness and by not considering their credentials beyond the 5th or 10th year of services.