How Indian Army is screening women officers for Permanent Commission


Women in army
According to recent figures, there are 1,653 women officers currently serving in the Army out of a total of nearly 43,000 officers.

The Army has constituted a special screening board to select women officers for Permanent Commission. This follows the Supreme Court’s landmark verdict in February this year, allowing all women officers to seek Permanent Commission in the Army.

Here is a look at what this means for the women officers wearing the olive greens:

How is the screening board for women officers constituted?

The Number 5 Selection Board has been constituted by the Army pursuant to the Supreme Court’s February 2020 order, directing the Army to induct all eligible women officers as permanent commission officers. The special board came into effect on September 14. 

The board is headed by a Senior General Officer and includes a woman officer of the rank of Brigadier. Women officers have been permitted to witness the proceedings as observers in order to add transparency to the process.

Woman in combat
The women soldiers are on deputation from the Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force over which the Army has operational control.

Women officers who qualify in the screening process will be granted Permanent Commission subject to being in the acceptable medical category.

What was the matter under adjudication in the Supreme Court?

Induction of women officers in the Army had been initiated in 1992, when the then government set the ball rolling for induction of women officers in select non-combat branches.

In 2008, the then government extended the Permanent Commission to women in two branches — Army Education Corps and Judge Advocate General.

In 2010, the Delhi High Court awarded the Permanent Commission to women officers in all branches in which they were serving but the government appealed against this order in the Supreme Court. The verdict in the matter came in February this year.

woman in war
According to recent figures, there are 1,653 women officers currently serving in the Army out of a total of nearly 43,000 officers.

It is pertinent to mention here that the present government has granted Permanent Commission to women in all ten branches in which they were serving in March 2019, but this offer was not to be implemented retrospectively. 

This meant that a large number of women officers still serving as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers would not be eligible for the Permanent Commission. 

As SSC officers they could serve for a maximum of 14 years in the Army, however, the SC order paved the way for them to be considered for Permanent Commission. A screening board has, therefore, been constituted for the purpose.

How many women officers are currently serving in the Army and in what branches?

According to recent figures, there are 1,653 women officers currently serving in the Army out of a total of nearly 43,000 officers. Apart from the Judge Advocate General’s branch and Army Education Corps where Permanent Commission was already given, the eight other branches to get women officers as permanent commissioned officers are Signals, Engineers, Military Intelligence, Army Air Defence, Army Ordnance Corps, Army Service Corps, Army Aviation Corps and Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineering.

What are the physical fitness standards required for women officers seeking Permanent Commission?

The Army has recently tweaked its physical fitness policy for women officers after the Supreme Court verdict. Changing its policy regarding applicability of Battle Physical Efficiency Test (BPET) for women officers/women cadets/women recruits, the Army has made it mandatory for all women officers, including those commissioned before 2009 and above 35 years of age, who were earlier exempt from it.

permanent commission for woman
This course, which is normally attended by male officers with five to 10 years of service, will now see women officers of much senior service bracket — 15 and 16 years of service and more — attending it.

The BPET is a series of physical tests that are meant to test the physical fitness of an officer or a jawan to perform military tasks. For women officers, this includes a five-km run, a 60-metre sprint, climbing vertical rope up to a certain height, traversing horizontal rope up to a certain distance and jumping 6-feet ditch.

These new directions supersede the directions issued by Army Headquarters in March 2011, which said, “Lady officers, who are commissioned before April 2009 and are above 35 years of age, will be excused from BPET and only Physical Proficiency Test (PPT) will be applicable for them.”

Are there any other eligibility conditions for grant of Permanent Commission to women officers?

After the Supreme Court order on February 17, 2020 granting Permanent Commission to all women officers with all consequential benefits, the Army has started detailing women officers of the rank of Lt Colonels for Junior Command (JC) course at Army War College, Mhow, so that they are eligible for Permanent Commission. 

Women officers had been asked to attend the courses being conducted at the college between July and October this year.