'Organisational issues used to deny women Navy officers equality'. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Feb 28 : Gender-based classification is always justified by governments all over the world with "inane explanations", and they will do anything to justify their discriminatory behaviour, counsel for women officers seeking permanent commissions in the Indian Navy and Air Force told the Supreme Court on Friday.

Aishwarya Bhati, representing Seema Chaudhary, contended before a bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud hat her client's case was similar to the one propounded in the Babita Puniya judgement, where the apex court directed the Centre to grant permanent commission to all women Army officers in three months.

Chaudhary was commissioned in the Indian Navy's JAG Branch on August 6, 2007 and was the only SSC JAG Branch Officer in the entire servuce. "Both the Indian Navy as also the Indian Army wanted to apply the policy of grant of Permanent Commission prospectively, excluding the serving women officers," the counsel said.

Bhati contended before the court that her client's application was rejected because she was inducted prior to the policy, but those of her male colleagues were accepted. She contended that there was inherent discrimination prevalent in the working of administration, emphasising the justifications offered to prevent women from attaining permanent commissions including seniority in cases of national security, reduction of number for direct recruitment etc.

She submitted before the top court that slightly different shade of reasons given to deny the benefit of policy of permanent commission to serving women officers of the Indian Navy, bear an uncanny resemblance to the issues of mindset and stereotypes, in the case of the women officers of the Indian Army.

"These misconceived reasons are being masqueraded as organisational issues to scuttle and deny the right of rationality, equality and equal opportunities and deserve to be rejected completely and outrightly, in the same manner," she argued.

Bhati insisted that flimsy and farcical grounds raised by the Centre in restricting the policy for grant of permanent commission to women officers of the Indian Navy prospectively, and denying the same to the women officers, who were serving on the date of the policy in 2008, "displays a complete disconnection with the government objectives that are sought to be achieved".

"The serving women officers of the Indian Navy, most respectfully beseech this court, to grant permanent commission to the women officers who have been serving since prior to 2008, without any discrimination and fetters, on the basis of their demonstrated service record, their suitability as already assessed and affirmed at the time of their considerations for extensions and also during their long standing service and experience," she said.

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