THE SUPREME Court on Thursday rejected the Centre’s plea to allow women candidates to sit for the National Defence Academy (NDA) exams from next year. Instead, the court said the applicants may be given a chance to take their exams this year itself scheduled for November 14. Saying it doesn’t want women to be denied their rights, the SC said it had already passed interim orders and that “armed forces are best suited to deal with emergencies”.
However, several questions arise with this decision. Is this a step taken in haste without considering all aspects in detail? Are the armed forces ready for this change yet? Will the change of physical parameters in womens’ training dilute the very essence of the big move? Are the sociological aspects of sending women to battle field taken into account entirely?
“The Supreme Court order is legally correct and binding, however, it does neither take into account ground realities nor comprehend the consequences of the order. Equal opportunity to serve in armed forces already exists through OTA and other academies wherein woman join post graduation. Joining after school at 17 years of age is a totally different matter, physically, mentally and legally. The MoD and the services should have carried out a cause and effect analysis as also a cost-benefit analysis before going to the courts. Legal positions do not stand scrutiny in battlefield conditions especially given the security challenges in the Indian Context. This particular decision is likely to degrade the training regimen followed at NDA which will have an adverse impact on our leadership in the near to mid term,” opines Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia, Former Director-General of Military Operations, Indian Army.
Though the Centre had initially termed it a matter of policy, after initial hiccups and discussions with service chiefs the MoD agreed to allow women candidates to sit for NDA exams but requested for time till May 2022 to be able to ensure necessary arrangements are put in place.
Former Deputy Commandant of NDA Rear Admiral SK Grewal who served as the Chief Instructor for three and a half years feels “an academy like NDA would be able to accept Girls by undertaking some administrative and infrastructural changes. Therefore, it is practical but it is not a nice idea to put adolescent girls, who are not physiologically fully developed, through such a long and rigorous training.
The other issue that merits consideration is that POCSO Act will be in vogue for girls under 18 years of age. There seem to be no other problem and these girls would be able to cope up with extra efforts, like some of the boys have to do.”
In an affidavit filed in court earlier the Defence Ministry had pointed to the need to formulate medical standards for the women candidates and that while the education curriculum is well set, all the rest of aspects of the training are required to be formulated separately. The affidavit also noted that there is a need to upgrade infrastructure depending on the intake strength of the women candidates depending on the operational, budgetary and administrative criteria.