The Union government informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the armed forces have decided to induct women into the National Defence Academy.
The Centre’s submission in the top court came as a two-judge bench took up a plea seeking directions for necessary steps to be taken to allow eligible female candidates to appear in the NDA examinations scheduled on November 14.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice S.K. Kaul that a decision has been taken at the highest level of the armed forces as also the government that females would be inducted for permanent commission through the NDA.
The top court said it has been periodically nudging the authorities to do it themselves as it believed that they were best suited to evolve needed policy.
“The idea is when nothing happens, the court steps in. Let me assure you it’s not a happy situation to step in and we would like the armed services to do it themselves. They are very respected forces of the country but on gender equality, they have to do more and sometimes the resistance does not come out well,” said the bench, also comprising Justice M.M. Sundresh.
The Centre, however, also sought an exemption from allowing women candidates for this year’s paper.
On this, the bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul directed the government to put on record a detailed affidavit by September 20, mentioning details such as steps being mulled, timelines etc. The next hearing in the matter would take place on September 22, it announced.
At present, only male candidates who have cleared Class 12, and are between 16-and-a-half and 19 years old, can apply for this exam, which is conducted twice every year by the Union Public Service Commission. Those who clear the written exam then appear for Services Selection Board interviews. Finally, the ones who clear their medical tests are inducted into the NDA, which was established in December 1954.
In February 2020, the top court had ordered that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commissions on par with their male counterparts. In March 2021, the Court directed the Central government to allow permanent commissions to the women officers excluded on the ground of unequal application of fitness standards.