Indian Army promotes five women officers in three key corps to time-scale Colonel rank after 26 years of ‘reckonable service’

Published : August 24, 2021 13:08 IST

Representative image of women trainees in the Indian Army. Photo: K. MURALI KUMAR

In yet another victory in the quest for equal opportunities for women in the Indian Army, a Services Selection Board of the Army has cleared the way for the time-scale promotion of five women officers to full Colonel rank in three key corps. The five women officers have already completed 26 years of “reckonable service”.

With the Army pursuing a policy of a leaner, meaner and younger army, Lieutenant Colonels in the infantry armoured corps, artillery and support arms are eligible to be promoted as Colonels after 14 to 18 years of service. However, many, despite “picking up their rank” do not get promoted at times because of lack of vacancies or the Army’s promotional board not clearing them. Such officers are made time-scale colonels after they complete 26 years in service.

This is the first time that women officers serving with the Corps of Signals, Corps of Electronic and Mechanical Engineers (EME) and the Corps of Engineers have been approved to the rank of Colonel. Previously, promotion to the rank of Colonel was only applicable for women officers in the Army Medical Corps (AMC), Judge Advocate General (JAG) and the Army Education Corps (AEC) branches.

The five women officers selected for promotion to Colonel (time scale) rank are Lt Col. Sangeeta Sardana from the Corps of Signals; Lt Col. Sonia Anand and Lt Col. Navneet Duggal from the Corps of EME; and Lt Col. Reenu Khanna and Lt Col. Ritcha Sagar from the Corps of Engineers.

Said a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence: “The widening of promotion avenues to more branches of the Indian Army is a sign of increasing career opportunities for women officers. Combined with the decision to grant permanent commission to women officers in most branches of the Indian Army, this step defines the Indian Army’s approach towards a gender-neutral Army.”

The move to grant time-scale Colonel rank to the five women officers comes on the heels of the August 18 interim orders of the Supreme Court, which directed that women candidates also be allowed to sit for the National Defence Academy (NDA) entrance exam, scheduled to be held on September 5. The court’s directive is subject to further orders and has been posted for further hearing on September 8. The court held that the government and Army’s policy not to allow women candidates to appear in the NDA entrance exams was based on “gender discrimination” and was “discriminatory”.

Until now, women could join the Army through the Indian Military Academy and the Officers Training Academy.