New Delhi: The Indian Navy today filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court challenging a recent order of the Delhi High Court asking it to grant permanent commission to 17 women officers who had retired after their Short Service Commission ended in 2006.
The petition was filed hours after Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that the Navy would challenge the order.
The Delhi High Court had on September 4 allowed a batch of petitions seeking permanent commission for them in the force, saying "sexist bias and service bias" would not be allowed to block progress of women.
The court, while granting their plea, said the "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".
Parrikar said that in 2008, the Navy had opened its doors in Short Service Commission (SSC) for granting permanent commission to women along with men.
He said that permanent commission for SSC was not an option for men also prior to 2008.
"There is no gender bias...It was equal to both men and women. In 2008, the Navy granted SSC to be changed to permanent commission to women in three streams -- education, law and naval constructions. The other areas have some logistics and infrastructure problems as those are executive branches.
"And therefore the HC order has 2-3 issues for which we are approaching the Supreme Court because we want to give almost equal status to women in all areas wherever possible, subject to training limitations and logistics and infrastructure capabilities. So we will be approaching the apex court because that judgement is based on the presumption that there was a gender bias, which is not there," he said.
Defence sources argued that the women officers, from the first batch of 1992, had signed their terms of service and had completed 14 years of service, as per the conditions laid down in the Short Service Commission.
Sources said when women were brought into SSC, even men did not have the option of permanent commission. They said that besides the three branches, promotions in other branches would mean that the women would have to serve on ships, something which is not allowed till now due to logistics and infrastructure issues.
"Navy introduced the option of permanent commission to SSC, both men and women, only in 2008. Where is the gender bias in this," sources said.
While the army and air force allow permanent commission for women, the navy limited women officers to short service commission of 14 years.
A bench of justices Kailash Gambhir and Najmi Waziri also allowed the women naval officers' plea seeking retirement benefits like pension.
Women naval officers were not eligible for pension as it required 20 years of service.