Close on the heels of the Supreme Court’s February judgement granting permanent commission to women officers regardless of their years of service and suggesting them command postings, the Indian Army has started a study to examine the career progression of its women officers, including their promotions, course, duties and command postings and recommend ways for improving existing policies, says a report in the Economic Times. About 600 women, who have completed 11 to 20 years of service, will be affected by the Supreme Court ruling which said all women officers will be considered for permanent commission, irrespective of whether they have crossed 14 or 20 years of service.
Aimed at giving a holistic view of their induction and later management as permanent commissioned officers, the study will look into their commissioning as officers, physical fitness, selection boards and duties. The officials conducting the study are from different directorates, including those where women officers are inducted, and from the army commands.
Permanent commission allows an officer to serve in the Army for 20 years, which is the minimum duration required to be eligible for pension benefits. While women are only inducted as Short Service Commissioned (SSC) officers, according to a policy letter of February last year they can be considered for permanent commission in all the 10 services of the army they are inducted. SSC officers are considered for permanent commission during the 10th year of service by a board. Women SSC officers can opt for it during the early years of their career. If they don’t give that option or are not selected, they can continue to serve up to 14 years, which is the maximum duration an SSC officer can serve.
The ET report added that the army is also ensuring that with permanent commission women undergo important courses such as junior command and complete two criterion appointments such as a company commander of a unit, to be able to be considered for promotion to the rank of Colonel in a command appointment. This is unprecedented because women in most of the 10 streams of the army they are inducted into neither go beyond the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (below Colonel) nor get command appointments. The apex court had also ordered to strike down a clause in last year’s policy letter which asked women officers to be sent on staff appointments only after receiving permanent commissions.
Following the judgement, the army wrote to the 600 women officers, including the petitioners in the case, who have completed more than 10 years’ service to voluntarily opt for permanent commission. The army has formed three different categories – those who have completed 11 to 14 years of service; those who have completed 14 to 20 years; and those who have completed 20 years and above.