COMMAND POSTINGS FOR WOMEN OFFICERS IN THE ARMY

  • The Army has stated that the process for selection of women officers to command assignments in the rank of Colonel, a major step towards bringing them at par with their male counterparts, has been conducted.
  • This flows from the Supreme Court judgment of 2020 upholding an earlier judgment granting permanent commission (PC) as well as command postings to women officers in all arms and services other than combat.

What is the process?

  • The Army has conducted a Women Officers Special No 3 Selection Board from January 9 to 22 for promotion from the rank of Lieutenant Colonel to Colonel. A total of 244 women officers are considered for promotion.
  • This is against the 108 vacancies released by the government to promote the affected women officers who are from various Arms and Services which include engineers, signals, Army Air Defence, Intelligence Corps, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps and electrical and mechanical engineers.
  • Based on the selection by the board, the first set of such postings will be issued by the end of January 2023. Following judicial intervention, the Army has granted PC to women officers at par with their male counterparts in all Arms and Services other than combat arms which are infantry, mechanised infantry and armoured.
  • Additionally, Army Chief General Manoj Pande announced that women officers would soon be inducted into the Corps of Artillery as well.

What do command postings mean?

  • Apart from medical and dental streams, since 2008 the Army had granted PC for women officers in the Education Corps and Judge Advocate General (JAG) branches where they already go to the rank of Colonel.
  • However, they are largely administrative appointments unlike the regular arms and services where Colonels command officers and men and lead them from the front.
  • A Commanding Officer (CO) is a very coveted position in the Army and therein lies its significance in it being opened up for women.
  • In the past, women were recruited in various arms and services only as short service commissions, which meant they would have to leave service after 14 years, much short of the pensionable service of 20 years.
  • In a landmark judgment in the Babita Puniya case in February 2020, the Supreme Court directed that women officers in the Army be granted PC as well as command postings in all services other than combat.
  • Further, on March 25, 2021 the Supreme Court in Lt. Col. Nitisha versus Union of India held that the Army’s selective evaluation process discriminated against and disproportionately affected women officers seeking PC.
  • With reduction in the age profile of COs over the years, an officer now becomes a Colonel after about 16-18 years of service.

What is the way forward?

  • All women officers who were granted PC are undergoing special training courses and assignments to empower them for higher leadership roles.
  • For the first time last year, five Women Officers (WOs) have cleared the Defence Services Staff Course and Defence Services Technical Staff Course Exam, which is held annually in the month of September.
  • The five WOs will undergo a one year course which will give them adequate weightage while being considered for command appointments.
  • These developments will allow women officers to assume challenging leadership roles, akin to their male counterparts, and also to go further up the rank structure.
  • Women are being inducted in the ranks of sailors by the Navy under the Agnipath scheme and will soon be deployed onboard warships while the Army has inducted women as soldiers in the Corps of Military Police.

SOURCE: THE HINDU, THE ECONOMIC TIMES, PIB

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