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SC allows women to sit for Entrance test for NDA and Naval Academy: Admissions will be subject to Court’s final orders

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New Delhi, Aug 18 (ILNS) The Supreme Court today issued interim directions that women be allowed to sit for the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination to be conducted by Union Public Service Commission on September 5, this year and ruled that admissions would be subject to its final order.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy passed the interim order while hearing the plea filed by Kush Kalra directed The Court directed UPSC to make the necessary corrigendum and give it wide publicity. The Court also clarified that the admission would be subject to its final order.

The court after hearing the lengthy arguments on behalf of the petitioner led by Senior Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, assisted by Advocate on Record (AOR) Mohit Paul and Advocates Ms. Sunaina Phul and Mr. Irfan Hasei, passed the interim directions that the women be allowed to sit for the NDA and NAE but the admission would be subject to its final order.

Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma submitted that they had received the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the Union only yesterday, that states that it is a policy issue which should not be interfered with by the Court. 

Additional Solicitor General Aisawariya Bhati appearing on behalf of the Centre submitted that it was a policy decision. 

Justice Sanyay Kishan Kaul said, that he is finding this submission absurd and that he does not have a very good impression of the army in this regard. He went on to state that ‘the Air Force and the Navy are better in this aspect and the Army is a risk averse organisation that ‘does not act unless judicial orders are passed.’

ASG asked the Court not to interfere in a policy decision. However, the Court opined that such policy was based on “gender discrimination”.

Advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma submitted that the matter be listed before the date of the exam, to which the Court promptly said that it will not be necessary as they were issuing interim directions. 

AOR Mohit Paul, submitted that the UPSC despite being served notice has chosen not to appear in the proceedings today and that the Supreme Court should issue a direction to them to make relevant corrigendum in the examination advertisement. 

The Court directed UPSC to make the necessary corrigendum and give it wide publicity. 

The case pertains to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by one Mr. Kush Kalra saying that it is a clear violation of the Fundamental Rights under Articles 14, 15, 16, 19 of the Constitution which deny the opportunity to eligible and willing female candidates to join the National Defense Academy. In a nutshell it is the issue is of gender discrimination. 

The petitioner sought appropriate steps to allow eligible female candidates to appear for the NDA and NA Examination conducted by the UPSC and train them at the National Defence Academy. Earlier, the Bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and Justice A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian had on March 10, 2021 issued notice to the Government in this regard.

The main grounds raised by the petitioner are that that there was a violation of fundamental rights to equality, protection from discrimination by the State on the ground of sex, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment and discrimination by the state on the ground of sex in respect of any employment or office under the state, and the right to practice any profession. 

The Petitioner contended that the systematic categorical exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates to appear for the NDA and NA Examination and gain entry into it is a violation of fundamental rights. 

The petitioner submitted that “The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts the entrance examination titled “National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination” and as per the eligibility criteria, any unmarried male candidate, with the required educational qualification and aged between 15-18 years can sit for the examination and on qualifying the exam and on successful completion of training at the NDA and the subsequent training at the respective Academy of the Service the cadet opts for, gets commissioned into the Service as a Permanent Commissioned Officer by the age of 19-22. This opportunity to take the National Defence Academy and Naval Academy Examination at the age of 15-18 years, with the eligible academic qualifications is not available to eligible and willing female candidates and the sole reason for this categorical exclusion is on the basis of their sex.”

The petitioner also submitted that the Supreme Court in Secretary, Ministry of Defence v. Babita Puniya and Ors. had taken on record the statement of policy placed on record in the proceeding by the Union Government in the form of a letter dated February 25, 2019 vide which the Union Government had allowed the grant of Permanent Commission to Short Service Commission women Officers in all the 10 streams where women have been granted Short Service Commission in the Indian Army, subject to certain directions laid down by the Court./ILNS/KR/SC/SNG

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