The Centre has told the Supreme Court that women may not be suitable for command posts in the Army. Government said male troops are not yet prepared to accept women officers.
It also cited greater family demands and the danger of them being taken prisoner of war.
Government has opposed the plea of a few women officers for command posting after getting permanent commission.
“The composition of rank & file being male, and predominantly drawn from rural background, with prevailing societal norms the troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command,” the government said.
Government also said male and female officers cannot be treated on a par in the matter of postings.
According to it, their different physical standards and exposures, and reservations over exposing women officers to combat situations pose a great challenge.
Senior advocate R Balasubramanian and lawyer Neela Gokhale told a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi that induction of women to such posts would change the dynamics of the armed forces.
They contended physiological limitation is further accentuated by the “challenges of confinement, motherhood and childcare”.
Opposing the Centre’s plea, Meenakshi Lekhi and Aishwarya Bhatti, representing the women officers told the court that many of them displayed exceptional bravery in adverse situations.
They informed the court it was Minty Agarwal who, as flight controller, had guided Wing Commander Abhinandan when he shot down a Pakistani F-16 for which she was awarded the Yudh Seva Medal.
Earlier Mitali Madhumita was awarded the Sena Medal for her bravery when terrorists attacked the Indian embassy in Kabul.
But the Centre said armed forces require sacrifices and commitment beyond the call of duty by the entire family.
“...it is a greater challenge for women officers to meet these hazards of service owing to prolonged absence during pregnancy, motherhood and domestic obligations towards their children and families, especially when both husband and wife happen to be service officers,” it said.
Centre is agreeable to permanent commission to women officers who have served up to 14 years in the Army but not above that.
He said all aspects were considered by the Centre while formulating a policy, like national security, operational effectiveness and it was difficult to allow women officers in command posts.
The government is trying to discourage induction of women officers into Indian Army.
Projecting it to be a male bastion, the armed forces need to be viewed in the perspective of changing society.
But the bench also hinted that complete bar against women officers for holding command posts was not right and the Army should allow them as per organisational requirement and suitability.
The court said there was resistance when women were being inducted in the police force but they are doing extremely well.
“A change of mindset is required with changing times. You need to give them an opportunity and they will serve to the best of their capabilities,” the bench