SC: Show some heart, reinstate 14 women IAF officers

Reviving their hope to get permanent commission and hence parity with their male counterparts, the Supreme Court Wednesday asked the Centre to reinstate 14 women IAF officers, who had been released after completion of 15 years in service for want of future avenues.

A Bench led by Justice R M Lodha asked the government and the IAF to "show some heart" and "gladly" accept these 14 officers in terms of the 2010 Delhi High Court judgment. The High Court in March 2010 ruled that women officers serving in the Army and IAF were also entitled to permanent commission.

The ruling had opened the gates for permanent commission to around 1,200 women officers in the two forces who joined service before 2006, the year when a decision was taken by the government not to absorb women as permanent commission officers.

While this High Court judgment was challenged in the apex court where it remains pending, there was no stay on its operation. These 14 officers, who were on short service commission but were released in 2008-09, had sought reinstatement. It was, however, refused on the ground that they were neither in service on the date of the High Court judgment nor filed petitions in the court after release.

In their applications, argued by senior advocate P S Narasimha, the officers termed this distinction as "arbitrary" since they were being denied the benefits despite serving the IAF for 15 years while their batchmates and subsequent batches were granted such permanent commission only because they approached the High Court.

Appearing for the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad opposed their plea, apprehending a flood gate of such requests. But the Bench differed, saying: "How can you classify between the officers who chose not to multiply the proceedings and waited for the HC judgement and those who moved the court? This is not reasonable classification."

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