Unscrambling the Gendered Underpinnings by way of Babita Puniya – The RMLNLU Legislation Evaluate Weblog

Unscrambling the Gendered Underpinnings by way of Babita Puniya – The RMLNLU Legislation Evaluate Weblog

By: Vasundhara Mehta

The Supreme Court docket (herein after SC), in Secretary, Ministry of Protection vs. Babita Puniya and Ors. has unequivocally highlighted its quest to bid adieu to entrenched gender inequalities, particularly the kinds which stem from stereotypical notions. Seen as a feminist victory, the judgment reaffirmed the dedication of the Apex Court docket towards safeguarding girls’s constitutional rights and laid the inspiration for recognition of oblique discrimination (Lt. Colonel Nitisha vs. Union of India).


In 1992, in furtherance of the ability vested in it underneath part 12 of the Military Act, the Central Authorities declared the appointment of ladies as officers in sure particular cadres, together with the Brief Service Fee (herein after ‘SSC’) for five years. In 2003, Babita Puniya filed a Public Curiosity Litigation demanding Everlasting Fee (hereinafter ‘PC’) for girls serving within the SSC. Subsequently, the tenure of serving within the SSC was prolonged to 14 years. In 2008, the Ministry of Protection (hereinafter ‘MoD’) granted PC to girls serving within the SSC prospectively, just for the positions of Decide Advocate Generals and Military Training Corps.

The Delhi Excessive Court docket, in 2010, dominated that the potential nature of the choice was incorrect and that ladies SSC officers have to be granted PC after 5 years. The Indian Military moved the SC difficult this order in 2011 however the Apex Court docket upheld it.

In 2019, one other round permitted PC for girls serving within the SSC in eight extra arenas prospectively. Nevertheless, upon the grant of PC, the scope of employment of ladies officers could be restricted to ‘workers appointments’ solely. This raised a urgent challenge – one which was addressed by the SC within the prompt matter – whether or not girls officers may very well be granted PC and command appointments.


The MoD argued that sure physiological limitations cease girls wanting being appropriate for the military and that extended absence of ladies from service may very well be attributed to childbirth and different familial duties (para 36). Additional, the circumstances of employment within the military would negatively have an effect on not solely the profession of the lady’s partner but additionally the tutorial prospects of her youngsters (para 35). Whereas referring to the case of the Union of India vs. PK Chaudhary (para 28), the MoD acknowledged that taking choices on coverage issues isn’t the judiciary’s prerogative. The MoD contended that the repercussions of ladies being taken Prisoner of Warfare (hereinafter ‘PoW’) might shock the nationwide conscience. Additional, whereas referring to ‘unit cohesion’, it was acknowledged that taking orders from a person with ‘inferior’ physiological capabilities could be a problem for male troopers, affecting the chain of command. The MoD proposed that ladies who had served as much as 14 years may very well be granted PC appointments and girls who had served greater than 14 years could be eligible to obtain an extension of tenure as much as 20 years, offering them with a possibility to be launched with a pension.

Respondents submitted that ladies had served in hostile areas. There was no knowledge on report to point that on account of any physiological limitations, there had been a hindrance within the method wherein responsibility was carried out by girls. It was argued that the MoD was guided by stereotypical opinions. The prevalence of gender bias was talked about as a cause which blocked the optimum improvement of ladies’s careers.

The Court docket noticed that the arguments superior by the MoD mirrored stereotypical assumptions and the Authorities’s proposal to grant PC just for workers appointments have been taken to be violative of Articles 14, 15 and 16(1) of the Structure. Acknowledging that Article 33 of the Structure supplies for sure restrictions on the implementation of basic rights within the armed forces, the SC dominated that these limitations are relevant solely when they’re crucial for upholding self-discipline and responsibility (paras 44 – 48). Thus, the order of the Delhi Excessive Court docket was upheld. All girls officers serving within the SSC at the moment are eligible for PC and command appointments, however the variety of years they’ve served. Ladies shall be given the proper to select from all areas of specialisation, on an equal footing with their male counterparts.

Following the judgment, the enforceability of expressions like “workers appointments solely” has been nullified. Ladies officers who’re eligible or have been granted PC are entitled to all consequential advantages.


A look by way of the gender-sensitive lens unveils a patriarchal and gendered division of labor in society, which systematically subordinates girls. Ladies are sometimes perceived as ‘homemakers’ whereas males are ‘bread winners’. That is akin to the separate sphere of ideology, per which the non-public area was ascribed to girls and the general public sphere belonged solely to males. The implications of this concept are so interwoven into the material of society that the traits rewarded by the navy are intricately related to conventional masculinist notions.

Though the arguments put forth by the MoD have been rejected by the SC, it’s attention-grabbing to notice that they undeniably stem from a notion of militarized masculinity. Feminist scholar Sandra Whitworth factors out that endeavor coaching within the navy focuses on the creation of a ‘brotherhood’; and for the initiation of this brotherhood, there may be usually an emphasis on masculine and heteronormative practices. In different phrases, as Catherine Lutz places it, a common concept of ​​heterosexual male supremacy is glorified within the navy as an establishment. RW Connell labels the phenomenon of this stereotypical picture as ‘hegemonic masculinity’, a sort of ‘culturally dominant masculinity’ that may be a socially constructed concept. Despite the fact that it doesn’t resemble the precise character of most males, it “sustains patriarchal authority and legitimizes a patriarchal political and social order.”

Joshua Goldstein in his e-book, ‘Warfare and Gender’ highlights the idea of a ‘heroic picture of achieved manhood’. Males are thus the ‘protectors’ however when girls take to arms, they’re referred to as fighters for ‘peace’, and their position is seen as ancillary to that of males. For instance, entry into the US-led conflict in Afghanistan was justified as a gallant intrusion on behalf of presumably helpless Afghani girls. The Taliban retort was additionally molded by the gendered justification of defending ‘their’ girls from exterior influences. This ‘delusion of safety’ tends to justify conflict by overlooking the issues inflicted on girls and kids.

I believe that the SC, in Babita Puniya, has refuted token efforts and comfort prizes that have been provided by the MoD within the title of gender fairness. The SC had beforehand, within the case of Joseph Shine vs. The Union of India struck down a place of regulation which perpetuated gender stereotypes and discriminated towards married girls. To disclaim girls positions they need and deserve underneath the garb of safeguarding their potential spouses and kids constituting ‘protecting discrimination’, an idea reinstated in Treasa Josfine vs. State of Kerala and Anuj Garg vs. Resorts Affiliation, whereby gender-based stratification was held to be unreasonable, whatever the potential threats that ladies face. Thus, the intent could also be to guard girls, however the outcomes are discriminatory.

One other argument superior by the MoD involved to the protection and safety of ladies. Relating girls to ‘nationwide pleasure’ if they’re taken as PoW stems from a perception that males should defend ‘their’ girls. Deeply rooted in stereotypical notions, ‘paternal romanticism’ has been acknowledged by the American courts to put girls “not on a pedestal, however in a cage…” (Frontiero vs. Richardson). This case was relied upon by the Apex Court docket within the Anuj Garg case, by way of which the ‘anti-stereotyping’ precept was bolstered.

On the query of security, who’s to ensure that ladies are secure in their very own properties? The danger of violence to girls usually stems from inside their very own homes with brutal situations of home violence and marital rape. Additional, the idea that each lady shall want to have a baby perpetuates societal expectations. The SC acknowledged the pervasive nature of bias emanating from organic determinism in Babita Puniya (para 54). Notably, the impression of unfavorable stereotyping is extraordinarily dangerous because it acts as an obstacle in the way in which of ladies holding positions of energy, as has additionally been acknowledged by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Motion, 1995.


Equality of the genders doesn’t imply they’re the identical, physiologically or in any other case. It signifies that the variations shouldn’t be a floor for denying any gender equal alternative. Babita Puniya is a laudable judgment, which has reinstated gender fairness in a male-dominated institution, and finally led to the landmark victory of ladies in Lt. Colonel Nitisha vs. Union of India.

There are some who assume that such measures represent a superficial involvement of ladies within the navy. Noura Erakat, for instance, opines that the exclusion of ladies from this sphere historically has made them understand the military as fascinating. She requires a ‘important engagement with the establishments of armed forces’. But, I imagine that offering an equal alternative to girls assures constitutional safety and privilege. This, for my part, can by no means be superficial. Ladies who’re desirous of achieving command positions are cognizant of the ramifications. They don’t want coverage choices taken by males, stating what is good for them. With respect to the ‘sensible features’ and issues which can be usually raised for nationwide safety, let girls like Lt. Colonel Mitali Madhumita and Squadron chief Minty Agarwal not be forgotten. Notably, the Apex Court docket, in Babita Puniya, has acknowledged the wonderful achievements of ladies officers (para 56).

(Vasundhara is a regulation undergraduate from Symbiosis Legislation College, Pune[2018-2023]. The creator could also be contacted by way of mail at [email protected])

Cite as: Vasundhara Mehta, ‘The Case for ‘She’ Roes within the Military: Unscrambling the Gendered Underpinnings By means of Babita Puniya’ (The RMLNLU Legislation Evaluate Weblog01 October 2022) date of entry.

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