India’s top court issues landmark ruling on women in army

India’s top court issues landmark ruling on women in army
Women cadets celebrate after their graduation ceremony at the Indian Army’s Officers Training Academy in Chennai, India in this March 14, 2015 file photo. (AP)
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Updated 18 February 2020

India’s top court issues landmark ruling on women in army

India’s top court issues landmark ruling on women in army
  • Order grants them equal rights in combat roles, ending an archaic gender bias

NEW DELHI: In a landmark judgment on Monday, the Supreme Court of India upheld a 2010 Delhi High Court verdict to order the permanent commissioning of women in the Indian Army.

The ruling, which the court has asked the government to implement within three months, means that a woman can now assume the post of colonel and command a battalion of 850 men, and can rise to the rank of brigadier, major general, lieutenant general, and chief of army staff. 

“Women officers (must) be given permanent commission as a change of mindset is required on government’s part to end a gender bias in the armed forces,” a two-judge bench of the court said in its order. 

The court came down heavily on the government for not acting on the Delhi High Court’s order, and for delaying the verdict by nine years. 

Citing a change in policy decision last year, New Delhi had allowed the permanent commissioning of women in eight streams. 

Despite this, the government contended in court that men and women could not be treated as equal in the armed services as women have “physiological limitations,” adding that existing social norms acted as a deterrent, too. 

The counsel added: “Troops are not yet mentally schooled to accept women officers in command of units” since they are “predominantly drawn from a rural background.” 

Rubbishing the arguments, the top court stated: “To cast aspersion on gender is an affront to their dignity and to the country. 

“(The) time has come that women officers are not adjunct to their male counterparts. Physiological features of women have no link to their rights. The mindset must change,” Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Ajay Rastogi said in the ruling. 

In a letter to the court, sent prior to the judgment on Monday, some serving women officers termed the government’s stance as “regressive” and “contrary to the demonstrated record and statistics.”

“All the lady officers in the Indian Army are very happy and very elated by the landmark judgment,” Lt. Col. Sandhya Yadav said after the verdict on Monday, adding: “It was a long wait and has ended. We are happy about it.” 

Lt. Col. Manish Thapliyal said: “This is a historic judgment which will go miles in the futuristic role that brave lady officers will play in the organization. They have already been playing a great role in fact.” 

Deboleena Dutta, a law student at Delhi University, said that the ruling was “a victory for not just women in service, but of the constitutional morality, decades of fight against inequality and recognition of obsolete rigidity of patriarchal ideals.” 

Dutta wanted to join the military service and was part of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), a voluntary youth group of armed forces, in school. 

Reality struck when Dutta realized how limited the opportunities were for women seeking to join the military. 

“When I came to know about the restrictions on the professional growth for women in the services I gave up the idea,” she told Arab News, adding that she’s hoping for more women to “break the glass ceiling” with this historic move. 

“I am sure this judgment will give women brave hearts their rightful, well-deserved opportunities to break the glass ceilings and ease the uneasiness of the masses,” she said. 

New Delhi-based senior journalist and defense expert, Manish Jha, concurred and commended India for a “path-breaking” verdict. 

“This order is setting a qualitative bench mark for the nation and setting a new precedent for the developed world to follow,” he said. 

“However, it remains to be seen how far the military services accept the change. The Indian Air Force has already been giving key roles to women, the army was also opening gradually but the navy is still very resistant to expanding the role of women in the services,” Jha told Arab News.


World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

Updated 29 min 12 sec ago

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row

World Bank threatens to halt $200m Afghan aid over banking data row
  • Letter sent to Afghan president comes amid corruption claims linked to new government controls on public-private partnerships

KABUL: The World Bank has threatened to close the taps on $200 million worth of aid to Afghanistan if Kabul fails to share banking sector data.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance on Wednesday said that the World Bank had warned the country’s President Ashraf Ghani that it would halt its assistance if the information was not forthcoming.
In a letter dated Nov. 23, Henry G. Kerali, the World Bank’s country director for Afghanistan, mentioned issues that “remain to be resolved” and “may impact” the bank’s capacity to disburse the full amount of $200 million.
The issues included the World Bank’s inability to obtain banking data from Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), the country’s central bank.
“The letter has actually been addressed to the president, and copies of it have been sent to relevant offices. The issue will be resolved in the coming week,” finance ministry spokesman, Shamroz Khan Masjidi, told Arab News.
“In the past, we would have shared a number of non-sensitive banking data with the World Bank. Now, a misunderstanding has appeared with the central bank which has not shared it with it (the World Bank) … the issue will be resolved.” The World Bank’s Kabul office declined to comment on whether the letter, a copy of which has been seen by Arab News, was a warning to Ghani. In an equivocal statement issued on Wednesday, the lender said: “No letter from the World Bank to the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been released to the public.” Ghani’s spokesman declined comment.
The World Bank’s purported threat comes amid complaints over increasing corruption after the presidential palace in recent months took control of public-private partnerships (PPP) from the Ministry of Finance through amendments to the country’s PPP law.
Reliant on international assistance, Afghanistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries.
Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction, in a letter on Nov. 11 said that the Afghan government “often makes paper reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than concrete actions that would reduce corruption, such as arresting powerful actors.” Even Ghani’s brother, Hashmat Ghani, spoke against the PPP law move. “Taking away PPP office and authority from the finance ministry has been a mistake. It should be reversed immediately,” he said in a tweet on Thursday.
Torek Farhadi, a former Afghan and International Monetary Fund adviser, said the World Bank’s letter was “not a good signal” for Afghanistan.
“The reason for which it is interrupting the payment is that the president wants to move a number of important state-owned enterprises and the management of PPP to the palace where there is no oversight of the parliament at the palace as opposed to the ministry (Finance Ministry),” he told Arab News.
“So, this is how corruption creeps in, and the international community is worried about what is going on and the World Bank expresses it in a diplomatic language in this letter.” Sediq Ahmad Usmani, a lawmaker from the parliamentary financial affairs committee, said: “The executive power, particularly, the presidency, has created another government of its special circle which deals with appointments and budget’s expenses. All the power lies with the president and without his knowledge they cannot do anything.” “This has been our concern and we have shared it with the donors and have asked them to prevent such wayward acts,” he added.
Ghani’s chief spokesman, Sediq Seddiqi, denied the existence of any “circle” under the president. “These MPs, I am sure they know the whole process and the authority of government officials and the president on budget spending. Budget issues must not be politicized.
“The government sends details of the budget to the parliament in a very transparent way and they have the legal right to oversee the spending. It is an open budget system, there is no circle.”