New Delhi: Social revolution does not come overnight and takes time, the Supreme Court Tuesday said while refusing to deal with at this stage the issue of reserving of seats for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and Other Backward Classes in the National Defence Academy (NDA).
The apex court gave time till July to the Centre to study the implication of induction and deployment of ex-National Defence Academy (NDA) women cadets in the Indian Armed Forces.
“Social revolution does not come overnight and it takes time,” a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh told an intervenor, who is seeking to reserve seats for Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, and Other Backward Classes in the NDA.
The bench said that at present it is not going to deal with the reservation of SC/ST or OBC at this stage but would only go into the issue of admissions of women in these education institutions which have been only for boys all along.
It listed the matter for further hearing on July 19 and sought details of the study to be conducted.
The bench noted the details of the affidavit filed by the Centre which said that in respect of the number of women to be inducted for “NDA-II 2021” and “NDA-I 2022,” each course at NDA has 370 vacancies for the three services out of which 208 will get commissioned in the Indian Army, 120 cadets will get commissioned in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and 42 will get commissioned in the Indian Navy.
“The induction of woman cadets in NDA has been a major policy decision. The respondents need sufficient time for deliberating implications in the long term for induction and deployment of ex-NDA women cadets in the Indian Armed Forces. It is, therefore, submitted that the respondents require at least three months additional time towards this”, the Centre has said in its affidavit.
The affidavit was filed pursuant to the top court’s direction on a plea filed by advocate Kush Kalra about the data of the women who have appeared for the NDA-2021 examination and the number of women inducted.
The Centre has said, “It is submitted that a total of 5,75,854 candidates applied for the exam and 3,57,197 candidates took the examination. A total of 8009 candidates, including 1002 women candidates passed the NDA write examination held during November 2021. The Service Selection Board (SSB) is scheduled with effect from March-April 2022”.
Justifying the number of women cadets for all three forces, the Centre has said that in respect of the Army, the ratio is to ensure that there is a younger profile and mobility of officer cadre, borne out of its operational role and tasks in difficult areas.
“The total vacancies planned for the Indian Army through NDA are 416 every year that is 208 per course. These vacancies are planned for all arms and services of the Indian Army. Officers commissioned through NDA have a major component of combat Arms and Women officers (WO) are not being inducted in combat arms”, the affidavit has said.
The Centre has said that the average intake in the last four years of women officers in the eight arms and services has been up to 15 per cent of the total cadre strength.
“With the present allotment of 10 women candidates per course in NDA, that is 20 per year the women cadre in these arms will witness a growth of 5 per cent from the existing 15 per cent to 20 per cent”, the affidavit has said.
It has emphasised that a considered decision has been made to allot 10 vacancies for women cadets in NDA and this major policy decision needs an adaptation period to evaluate the effect and a therefore substantial amount of time is required to review, analyze and assess the net impact of induction of women officers.
With regard to the Navy, the Centre said that despite gender-neutral induction, in the last two decades, women have constituted approximately six per cent of the total strength of Navy’s officer cadre (amounting to 20.72 per cent of the total officers in the branches/cadres/specializations open for induction of women).
Regarding Air Force, the affidavit said IAF is inducting women in all its branches and its sub-streams and they are cleared and being trained for all combat roles associated with these branches.
On January 18, the apex court had asked the Centre to explain why, despite its orders, the intake of women candidates in the National Defence Academy (NDA) for the year 2022 has been restricted to 19, the figure same as last year.
It had asked the Centre to place the figures on record about the total number of candidates including women who have appeared in the NDA examination 2021, for entrance tests for Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and Rashtriya Military School (RMS).
On September 22, last year, in a first, the top court had permitted female candidates to appear for the entrance exam to the NDA which was to be held in November, last year, saying their induction cannot be postponed by one year as sought by the Centre.
The Centre had submitted that a study group has been formed to facilitate the entry of women, and the necessary mechanism to facilitate that can be put in place by May 2022.
On October 7, last year the top court had permitted female candidates to appear in the examination for Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) in Dehradun, scheduled to be held on December 18, last year, saying the Centre has walked a mile and should walk a step ahead.