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‘March with time’: SC on permanent stint for women in Coast Guard

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NEW DELHI: After granting permanent commission to women short service commission officers in Army, Navy and Air Force, Supreme Court on Monday decided to examine similar career opportunity to women short service agreement (SSA) officers in Indian Coast Guard while ordering interim reinstatement of a woman officer who was discharged in Dec 2023 after a 14-year stint.

A bench of Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud, and Justices J B Pardiwala and Manoj Misra also ordered transfer of the petition by the woman SSA officer Priyanka Tyagi from Delhi high court, which had declined to grant interim relief to her while agreeing to examine the larger issue of PC for women in ICG, to Supreme Court saying it presented a national issue of gender equality.

In a virtual one-sided hearing of Tyagi’s lawyer, senior advocate Archana Pathak Dave, the bench said when different branches of armed forces have granted PC to women short service commission officer, ICG cannot remain an outlier.

“The petition needs to be heard given the broader constitutional mandate of Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth),” it said.

When attorney general R Venkataramani and additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee attempted to convey the factual aspects of the denial of permanent commission to Tyagi, the bench said, “Look at the resistance you have for absorbing women in permanent commission in ICG, which must march with time.”

In her 14-year stint with ICG as an SSA officer in the rank of assistant commandant, Tyagi saved more than 300 lives in the sea, logged 4,500 flying hours – the highest among men and women in armed forces, and in 2016, was part of first-ever all women crew on Dornier aircraft to undertake maritime patrolling on the eastern region.

Yet for all her accomplishments, she was denied permanent entry into ICG, which issued an order in May last year for releasing her from service on Dec 30, 2023.

Citing grant of permanent commission to women in all three wings of armed forces, she moved Delhi HC seeking similar relief. Though HC entertained her petition, it refused to grant her interim relief by directing ICG to continue her service till a judicial decision on her plea.

Tyagi said there is no policy for permanent absorption of SSA women officers in ICG. The petitioner said she cleared a special aviation medical test and completed 13 months of flying training to qualify as a navigator. She said she has highest-flying hours as per her seniority in all the forces including male and female – 4,500 hours on the Dornier Aircraft – and has saved more than 300 lives at sea.

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