Girls write NDA entrance examination for the first time after landmark Supreme Court judgment forces government hand

Published : November 15, 2021 16:46 IST

The National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla in Pune. Photo: Jignesh Mistry/File Photo

History was made on November 14 when for the first time women candidates wrote the entrance examination that would give them an opportunity to join the National Defence Academy (NDA), the first tri-services training academy in the world, as stated in the academy’s official website. According to sources, nearly 1,78,000 of the 5,70,000 applications that were received were from women. And the turnout was impressive, with nearly 75 per cent of the girls who had registered turning up for the examination.

The government was forced to open the doors of the NDA to women candidates after the Supreme Court’s landmark judgment in August making it eligible for women to join the Academy. The government had informed the court that the first-ever batch of women candidates would sit for the entrance exam in May 2022 and the NDA would be ready to welcome its first-ever batch of women candidates in January 2023. But the court rejected the Centre’s timeline, stating that it “cannot belie the aspirations of young girls” and ordered that woman should be allowed to take the examination in November 2021 itself.

The government’s decision comes almost three decades after women were commissioned to serve the armed forces in select branches of the army, air force and navy as short-service commission (SSC) officers. In July 2020, after a lengthy legal battle the Defence Ministry, in keeping with an order from the Supreme Court, issued formal sanction letters for the granting of permanent commission (PC) to women SSC officers in 10 streams of the armed forces. The court rejected the government’s stand that physiological limitations prevented it from giving PC to women officers. The court termed the government’s stand as perpetrating “sex stereotypes” and “gender discrimination against women”.

In 2015 the Indian Air Force created history by inducting women pilots into the fighter stream. And in 2020 the Indian Navy deployed four women officers aboard their warships. As per a statement made by the government in Parliament in September, there are 9,118 women currently serving in the army, navy, and air force. Though the number of women officers in the armed forces has gone up in recent years, women are still not allowed to serve in critical combat areas – the Armoured Corps, Infantry, Mechanised Infantry, and the Artillery.

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