Women cadets allowed into NDA, Centre tells Supreme Court

The Centre, however, urged the court for an exemption from implementing the decision for this year's examination scheduled for November 14 as certain procedural and infrastructural changes would be needed.

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The Centre on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it had decided to allow women cadets into the National Defence Academy (NDA).

“I am delighted to share that girls will be admitted in NDA. We will place a detailed affidavit,” Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told a Bench led by Justice SK Kaul, which had on August 18 asked the government to allow women candidates to appear for NDA entrance examination.

Debarring women amounted to gender discrimination, the top court had said, even as it had clarified that the results would be subject to the final outcome of the petition. It had also directed the Union Public Service Commission to issue an appropriate notification taking into account its order and give it due publicity.

Bhati said the decision was taken by the government after consultation with three service chiefs.

The Centre, however, urged the court for an exemption from implementing the decision for this year’s examination scheduled for November 14 as certain procedural and infrastructural changes would be needed.

Appreciating the Centre’s stand, the Bench said, “We have the nudged the authorities to take steps. The armed forces are respected branch in the country but for gender equality they need to do more. We are happy with the stand… Reforms can’t happen in a day, we are also conscious.”

Terming it a historic and path-breaking decision, the Centre said it would lead to a generational reform.

After recording the ASG’s statement, the Bench posted the matter for September 22.

The decision will allow women to be inducted for permanent commission in the defence forces through the NDA and the Naval Academy.

In its August 18 interim order, the court had wondered why the government was continuing in this direction even after its 2020 verdicts extending permanent commission in the Army and Navy to women.

“If you are introducing women in the Army then why do you create a bar in NDA,” the Bench had told Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, adding that the government shouldn’t always invite judicial interventions.

“This is unfounded now. We are finding it absurd. Will the Army act on after the judicial orders are passed? We will then pass an order, if that is what you want. I have this impression right from the High Court that till an order is passed, the Army does not believe in doing anything voluntarily,” the Bench had said.

“It is not just a case of gender principle but it’s a case of discrimination”, the Bench had said, adding women officers were now admitted even in combat roles.

The Centre should take a constructive view of the matter in view of the top court’s judgements, it had said.

Petitioner Kush Kalra contended that denying women opportunity to be part of NDA violated their fundamental right to equality, right to non-discrimination and right to practise any occupation, trade business or profession guaranteed under the Constitution.

Kalra had sought a direction to the authorities concerned to allow eligible female candidates to appear in the ‘National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination’ and train at the NDA in view of the 2020 landmark verdict granting Permanent Commission and command postings to women in the Army.

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