The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed the Centre and the Indian Air Force to consider granting Permanent Commission (PC) to 32 retired women Short Service Commission (SSC) officers based on their suitability with the purpose of giving them pensionary benefits.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and justices Hima Kohli and J B Pardiwala, however, refused to order their reinstatement on the ground that they were released from service way back between 2006 and 2009.
The officers will be entitled to grant of one-time pensionary benefit
“Reinstatement cannot be a viable option keeping in mind the requirement related to exigencies of serving the nation,” it said in the order.
The bench said the women IAF officers, if found eligible by the IAF for grant of permanent commission, will be entitled to grant of one-time pensionary benefit from the date when they would have completed 20 years in service if it had continued.
The CJI appreciated the IAF for taking a “fair approach” and told senior lawyer R Balasubramanian, appearing for the Centre and the Air Force, to convey the appreciation to the IAF chief and the government.
While granting relief to the former women IAF SSC officers, the bench said they had joined the services during 1993-1998 under the legitimate expectation in pursuance of the policy decision that they will be considered for grant of permanent commission after five years.
However, instead of being considered for the permanent service commission, they were granted extensions of six and four years successively and, before being released from service, finally during 2006 to 2009.
“These women SSC officers had the legitimate expectation of being granted an opportunity to claim permanent commission in terms of prevailing policy,” it said.
“We are of the view that these women SSC officers be considered for grant of pensionary benefits,” the bench said while exercising its extraordinary power under article 142 of the Constitution for doing complete justice in any matter pending before it.
HR Policy of IAF
The bench said the IAF would examine the suitability of these retired officers and consider granting pensionary benefits once they are found eligible for grant of permanent commission as per the HR (Human Resources) policy.
“The cases of the appellants will be evaluated on the basis of the HR Policy of November, 2010,” the court said.
It, however, made clear that these officers shall not be entitled to arrears of salary .
“Arrears of pension will be given with effect from the date when the officers will be completing 20 years of deemed services,” it said.
The bench, meanwhile, asked the IAF to consider the similar plea of two widow officers “sympathetically”.
In a landmark verdict on February 17, 2020, the top court had directed that women officers in the Army be granted permanent commission, rejecting the Centre’s stand on their “physiological limitations” as being based on “sex stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”.
The apex court had directed that within three months all serving SSC women officers have to be considered for permanent commission irrespective of them having completed 14 years or, as the case may be, 20 years of service.