Let her fly, let her be airborne all the time, says Supreme Court on woman IAF officer

Giving wings to Wing Commander Sandeep Kaur’s endeavour to get Permanent Commission in the Indian Air Force (IAF), the Supreme Court has asked the service to consider her demand.

The IAF at present does not give Permanent Commission to women officers, who joined the service on Short Service Commission.

Following the Delhi High Court order, Kaur had pleaded that the Centre consider her for Permanent Commission but the government rejected it claiming she is not entitled to it. She then challenged the order before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT), which asked the government to consider her demands.

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The AFT told the Central government to allow Kaur to continue to serve the nation if she was found qualified and capable of it in two months. But the Centre appealed against the AFT’s order seeking a stay.

However, Chief Justice T S Thakur, while hearing her case, asked the Centre to reconsider her plea for Permanent Commission and observed, “Let her fly, let her be airborne all the time.” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, assured the court that Kaur’s plea would be reconsidered by the Air Force and that “she will not be decommissioned before seeking permission from the court”.

The Supreme Court’s stand brings much cheer to other woman officers fighting for equality in employment in the Armed Forces.

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The Delhi High Court had, in its 2010 ruling while giving Permanent Commission to all women who were posted in Short Service Commission, said, “Women officers deserve better from the government. If male officers can be granted Permanent Commission, there is no reason why equally capable women officers can’t.”

Earlier, multiple petitions were filed in the High Court by several women officers to stop discrimination against women Army officers, who were given only Short Service Commission for periods extendable up to 10 years.

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An appeal against it by the Army is pending before the Supreme Court for over five years now. The Army, while opposing the plea by women seeking a permanent commission, had said, “Combat situations may be difficult for women to tolerate.”

The High Court while allowing the plea of woman naval officers seeking Permanent Commission in the force had said that sexist and service bias would not be allowed to block the progress of women and had
observed, “Women are here to stay and since they work shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts, it would frown upon any endeavour to restrain the progress of women.”

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