The Supreme Court said it was aware that there can be no judicial review of standards adopted by the military for medical criteria unless they are “manifestly arbitrary”.
A panel of judges DY Chandrachud and MR Shah observed this in their 137-page verdict in which they stated that the assessment criteria established by the army for awarding a permanent commission (PC) to female officers of the SSC constituted “systemic discrimination” which caused an economic and economic crisis. psychological harm and an “affront to their dignity”.
The higher court dealt with the issue related to the SHAPE-1 qualification for the granting of the PC.
The bench noted that SHAPE-1 has “specific meaning” – ‘S’ gives physiological characteristics, including abnormalities in cognitive function, ‘H’ stands for hearing, ‘A’ for appendages, ‘P’ for physical ability and ‘E’ for sight.
“With regard to the medical criteria prescribed by the army, we are aware that there can be no judicial review of the standards adopted by the army, unless they are manifestly arbitrary and have no connection rational with the goals of the organization. The SHAPE criterion is not in itself arbitrary,” the bench said.
“Fitness is crucial to get a place in the army. While exercising judicial oversight, the court must exercise caution in dealing with policies prescribed to armed forces personnel to achieve standards associated with physical and mental fitness,” he noted.
The bench said that having come to the conclusion that the medical test is not per se arbitrary, it falls to the court to consider whether it has been applied in the same way.
“We cannot ignore the fact that these 615 WSSCO (female SSC officers) are held to a rigorous medical standard late in their careers, simply because the military did not consider them to grant them PC , unlike their male counterparts,” he said.
The bench noted that by the March 2010 judgment of the Delhi High Court, specific instructions had been issued to screen female SSC officers for the grant of PC.
He said that while awaiting the appeal against the verdict in the supreme court, there was no stay of the application of the judgment of the high court and this was specifically clarified by the order of 2 September 2011 from the superior court.
“The intent of the clarification was that the implementation of the High Court’s instructions should continue,” he said.
“WSSCO argued with justification that if they had been considered for the grant of a PC, then, as the Respondents were directed to do by the decision of the Delhi High Court, they would have satisfied the eligibility standards in terms of medical parameters. Their male counterparts who were considered and granted PC at that time are not required to maintain SHAPE 1 fitness to continue serving,” he noted.
He further said, “We must also express our anguish over the failure of the defendants to implement the judgment rendered by the Delhi High Court in 2010, the operation of which has not been specifically suspended by this court. in 2011”.
The bench said these female officers who have remained in service are the ones with the tenacity to hold on and meet the rigorous performance standards that the Indian Army has made the citizens proud of.
“It is also important for us to keep in mind that a career in the military comes with a series of serious trials and tribulations of transferable service with postings in difficult terrain, even in peacetime. This is made infinitely more difficult when society relegates the duties of domestic work, care and childcare exclusively to the shoulders of women,” he said.
“The WSSCOs before us are not just women who have dedicated their lives to service in the military, but women who have persevered under difficult conditions as they plodded painfully through a long litigation to benefit from the simplest equality with their male counterparts. They don’t come to court asking for charity or a favor,” he said.
Judgment was delivered on a range of pleas challenging the way last year’s supreme court verdict was implemented.
In its landmark ruling on February 17 last year, the Supreme Court ordered that female army officers be granted PC, rejecting the Centre’s position that their physiological limitations were based on “gender stereotypes.” and ‘sex discrimination against women’.
He had ordered that within three months, all serving female SSC officers should be considered for the grant of PC, whether or not they had exceeded 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.