NEW DELHI, INDIA - A clutch of women officers in the Indian Air Force (IAF) have won a major battle in a fight to shed their second-class status compared to male colleagues.
After a three-year court battle, they were granted the right to be given permanent commission, which allows them to rise ' like men ' to the high rank of Air Marshal and retire at the age of 60, with retirement and other benefits.
They could previously be only Short Service Commissioned (SSC) officers, able to serve for up to 14 years before retiring without benefits.
'Yes, we have already started the process for according permanent commission to women officers in accordance with the Delhi High Court orders,' a senior IAF officer was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India.
This follows a legal petition filed by 22 IAF and about 30 army female officers, who charged that the government was discriminating against them.
It is understood that the IAF has already written to the women officers, asking if they were interested in permanent commission.
However, the army officers who took part in the petition are still in limbo as the army may still appeal against the court decision. Army leaders 'are still studying the orders' and preparing their response, according to officers at army headquarters. The Solicitor-General, Mr Gopal Subramaniam, has advised against an appeal and the IAF has concurred.
In its landmark judgment, the Division Bench of Justice S. K. Kaul and Justice M. P. Garg had ordered the government to grant permanent commission to female officers, saying they 'deserve better from the government'.
However, the court rejected an additional plea by the women officers to be allowed combat roles - such as in the infantry or armoured forces for the army, or the fighter-pilot stream for the IAF.
It also nixed the government's counter that permanent commission be granted only to future recruits.
Until now, women could gain permanent commission in only a few branches of the military, such as the legal, education and accounts branches.
In most other spheres, such as helicopter piloting, logistics or air-traffic control, they had to accept SSC service.
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