SC directs Union to pay compensation of Rs. 60 Lakhs to Ex. Military Nurse, says, termination of a Woman Officer on the ground of Marriage is manifestly arbitrary

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Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) of India was hearing a matter related to the termination of a woman nursing officer (Ex. Lt. Selina John) from the Military Nursing Service (MNS) on the basis of marriage. In this case, Ex. Lt. Selina John (respondent) was a Permanent Commissioned Officer in the MNS. After joining as a Lieutenant in the MNS, she got married to an Army Officer, Maj Vinod Raghwan. However, she was released/discharged from the Army. The order dispensed with her services without serving any show cause notice or opportunity to defend her cause or opportunity of hearing. While hearing the matter, the bench opined “We are unable to accept any submission that the respondent–Ex. Lt. Selina John, who was a Permanent Commissioned Officer in the Military Nursing Service, could have been released/discharged on the ground that she had got married. This rule, it is accepted, was applicable to only women nursing officers.” 

The bench comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Datta stated that such a rule is ‘manifestly arbitrary’ and is a ‘coarse case of gender discrimination and equality’. It said “Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, right to non-discrimination and fair treatment. Laws and regulations based on gender-based bias are constitutionally impermissible. Rules making marriage of women employees and their domestic involvement a ground for disentitlement would be unconstitutional.” Further, the SC bench observed that Army Instruction titled ‘Terms and conditions of service for the grant of permanent commissions in the Military Nursing Service’ has been withdrawn. 

After hearing the matter, the top Court directed the Union to pay the petitioner (Ex. Lt. Selina John) compensation of Rs. 60 lakhs within 8 weeks. The order reads, “Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct the appellant(s) to pay compensation of Rs.60,00,000/- (rupees sixty lakh only) to the respondent – Ex. Lt. Selina John within a period of eight weeks from the date a copy of this order is served/made available to them.” It added that the compensation of Rs. 60 lakhs would be in full and final settlement of all the claims of Ex. Lt. Selina John against the appellant.