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Army study to examine career progression of women officers including permanent commission and command appointments

The study is aimed at giving a holistic view of their induction and later management as permanent commissioned officers. The study will look into their commissioning as officers, physical fitness, selection boards and duties, including the suitability of giving them command posts and other areas they can serve in.

Last Updated: Apr 08, 2020, 11.03 AM IST
Indian Army
Indian army women soldiers on the occasion of International Women's day.
NEW DELHI: The Indian Army has started a study to examine the career progression of its women officers, including their promotions, courses they have to undergo, duties and command postings and recommend ways for tweaking and improving existing policies. The study is in light of February’s Supreme Court judgement of granting permanent commission to women officers irrespective of their years of service and suggesting command appointments for them.

The study is aimed at giving a holistic view of their induction and later management as permanent commissioned officers. The study will look into their commissioning as officers, physical fitness, selection boards and duties, including the suitability of giving them command posts and other areas they can serve in. The officials conducting the study are from different directorates, including those where women officers are inducted, and from the army commands. The study’s recommendations and findings will act as guidelines for the career management of women officers by the army.

The army has already begun tweaking its policies to allow its women officers, who are serving beyond the set years of service for being considered for permanent commission, to exercise this option. Permanent commission allows an officer to serve in the Army for 20 years, which is the minimum pensionable service, and beyond that. While women are only inducted as Short Service Commissioned (SSC) officers in the army, according to a policy letter of February last year they can be considered for permanent commission in all the 10 services of the army they are inducted into. SSC officers are considered for permanent commission during the 10th year of service by a board of officers and if they make the grade, they are granted permanent commission. Women SSC officers can opt for it during the early years of their career. If they don’t give that option or are not selected, they can continue to serve upto 14 years, which is the maximum period of service of a SSC officer, or leave the army. About 600 women, who have completed 11 to 20 years of service, will be affected by the new move. This is because of the Supreme Court ruling that all women officers will be considered for permanent commission, irrespective of whether they have crossed 14 or 20 years of service.

The army is also ensuring that with permanent commission women undergo important courses such as junior command and complete two criterion appointments such as a company commander of a unit, to be able to be considered for promotion to the rank of Colonel in a command appointment. This is unprecedented because women in most of the 10 streams of the army they are inducted into don’t move beyond the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (below Colonel) or get command appointments. This too follows after the apex court in its judgement stated that a clause in last year’s letter-- on women officers be sent on staff appointments only after receiving permanent commission -- will not be enforced.

Following the judgement, the army has sent letters to the 600 women officers, including the petitioners in the case, who have completed more than 10 years service to voluntarily opt for permanent commission. The army will examine them for permanent commission in three different categories. These will be those who have completed 11 to 14 years of service; those who have completed 14 to 20 years; and those who have completed 20 years and above. Experts clarified that these officers could be considered with their equivalent batches of male officers, who were granted permanent commission in their 10th year of service. Ideally, the performance of women officers should be compared with the marks of the last male officer of their equivalent batch who made it through the selection board, as this can act as a benchmark. If the women officers get equal or more marks than that of the last male officer to be approved, they too should be granted permanent commission. This will ensure that the calibre of all officers of equivalent short service batches is balanced.

The women officers in the first category who have less than 14 years of service and don’t pass the selection board, can serve till 14 years and then leave the army. Those in the second category who have completed 14 years of service but still do not get approved for permanent commission can serve till 20 years, retire and receive pension.

Women getting permanent commission will be allowed to do certain courses and ‘criterion appointments’ to progress in the army. They will now be allowed to do courses such as junior command, meant for senior Captains and Majors to promote them to sub-unit commanders such as a company, one of the key elements of an army unit. Important career progression courses such as Staff College and MTech will now be open to them as well. They will also have to do two criterion appointments such as a company commander to be able to get to higher command appointments or be promoted to the rank of Colonel. The marks from criterion appointments is higher than those of non-criterion appointments and this helps an officer in being promoted to higher ranks. Earlier, very few women officers did the junior command course and held criterion appointments. This move will allow them to be on an equal footing with their male counterparts.

“The army is seeing what women officers can do as compared to their male counterparts for command appointments. We are creating a level playing field,” an official said.
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