Women will be inducted into the National Defence Academy (NDA) for permanent commission into India’s armed forces, the Union government told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The Centre, however, sought time to frame guidelines to pave the way for women to take NDA courses. The court gave the Centre 10 days to reply.
“We are extremely glad to know that the armed forces themselves took the decision to induct women into the NDA. We know that reforms cannot happen in a day… The government will place timelines of the process and the course of action,” the court said while hearing a petition to allow women to take NDA and Naval Academy exams.
“The armed forces play an important role… but need to do more for gender equality in the forces. We want them to take a proactive approach themselves in ensuring gender equality rather than waiting for courts to intervene.”
On August 18 the SC had ruled that women be allowed to face the NDA entrance exam. With this, the court threw open the doors for women to gain permanent commission in the army, air force and navy.
The verdict has long-term ramifications for India’s armed forces.
At present, women are recruited as short service commission officers. On March 17, 2020, the SC said they should also be given the option of converting their SSC to permanent commission – just like men.
The NDA recruits personnel right after school. Graduates, on the other hand, can take the Combined Defence Services exam. Commissions through both channels are permanent.
There is also permanent commission for post-graduates – engineers, electronics and mechanical engineers, judge and advocate general, signals, army educational corps, etc.
The Officer Training Academy Gaya recruits short service commission officers, both men and women. This is currently the only entry option available for women.
Recruits and trainees of all academies are at par. But once they pass, those from the NDA, near Pune, are considered the elite.
Top positions in all three branches of armed forces are usually manned by NDA recruits, for the simple reason that these recruits have age on their side. The entry age in NDA is between 16.5 and 19. In defence services, where retirement age is tied to the rank held, the youngest in a batch tend to go the farthest.
Permanent commission through the NDA will also allow women to join what are called ‘Arms’, or the main fighting units. This will put them in the reckoning for all top positions in the army.