SC directs Union to file an affidavit clarifying the steps taken in the empaneling of the batch of male and female army officers

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On March 4, 2024, the Supreme Court (SC) of India, in its recent order, directed the Union of India to file an affidavit clarifying the steps and procedures taken in the empaneling of the batch of male and female army officers. It listed the matter for further hearing on March 11, 2024. A three-judge bench of the SC comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra gave these directions while hearing a contempt petition filed by women army officers. The petition was filed for alleged violation of earlier direction by the Court for empaneling women officers for grant of permanent commission. The earlier directions were passed on November 03, 2023, which are as follows:

  • “A fresh exercise of reconvening Special No. 3 SB shall be conducted no later than within a fortnight from the date of this order for all the women officers who were considered by the earlier Special No. 3 SB (except for those officers who have already been empaneled);
  • Those officers who have already been empaneled or promoted as Colonels, shall not be disturbed or affected in any manner nor will their seniority be affected by the implementation of these directions.”

During the proceedings, Senior counsel Mr. Huzefa Ahmadi who appeared for the applicants submitted that the directions of the SC required the consideration of all women officers who were considered by the earlier Special No. 3 SB except for those officers who are already empaneled. He further submitted that “considering other empanelled officers would amount to a breach of the directions.” In this context, the Attorney General of India, Mr. R Venkataramani, who appeared for the Union of India contended that the concept of empanelment was based on the comparative merit among officers of the same ‘batch’. He further added that “the officers who had already been empanelled were not be disturbed. However, when the fresh Special No 3 SB convened, it was necessary to benchmark the officers to be considered with empaneled officers.”

Furthermore, Senior Counsel Ahmadi submitted that a similar exercise was not carried out for the empanelment of male officers. He also mentioned that the male officers who were under consideration were not considered together with the batch of officers who were already empanelled. Senior Counsel urged a discrimination has been made insofar as women officers are concerned. After hearing the matter, the bench directed to file an affidavit that explains the position, “In order to enable the Attorney General to clarify the above submission which has been urged on behalf of the women officers, we direct that an affidavit be filed explaining the position.” The SC further listed the miscellaneous application and the contempt petition on March 11, 2024.