Women should be allowed to take the National Defence Academy (NDA) exams this year, the Supreme Court said today, rejecting the government’s request to defer the move until next year to establish a new system. “We gave hope to the girls. We cannot deny them that hope now,” said the judges.
The “no exam today, exam tomorrow” approach would go against the aspirations of young women, the court said, directing a notification for exams on November 14.
The government had suggested that the first-ever women candidates for NDA take the exams in May next year. There was too little time to let women take the exams this year, the government had told the court.
“The armed forces have dealt with very difficult situations and emergencies. They are trained in dealing with emergencies. And they will be able to deal with this,” the Supreme Court responded.
“If they appear in exams in May 2022 then the intake will take place in January 2023. We cannot delay things by a year,” said Justices SK Kaul and BR Gavai.
The court had earlier called the NDA induction policy discriminatory to women.
The government had said it is in the process of establishing “appropriate” medical and physical fitness standards, and building “required infrastructure”, which includes “robust physical separation between male and female residential areas”.
The government had also said there were “no parallel (physical) standards for women candidates”, so these were being formulated; “… the issue needs detailed analysis, including expert inputs to maintain operational readiness.” Gynaecologists, sports medicine experts and counsellors, nursing staff and female attendants would also need to be in place for women cadets, it had said.
Earlier this month, the government had told the Supreme Court women could now sit for the NDA entrance exam.
This was after the court underlined a “mindset problem” and “gender discrimination” when it came to equal service opportunities for men and women in the country’s armed forces.
“It is a delight to share this. Women will be admitted in the NDA,” Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, had said.
A petition had argued that the categorical exclusion of eligible female candidates from the NDA was unconstitutional and done entirely on the basis of their sex. The government’s previous stance on the petition was that a “different kind of training” was needed and “ultimately it (barring women) is a matter of national security”.