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New Delhi:

 
Citing the COVID induced lockdown, the Centre has asked the Supreme Court to grant it six months extra to comply with its verdict granting permanent commission to eligible women officers in the army and also making provisions for them in command posts.

In an application, the Ministry of Defence said: “The applicants have commenced the process of substantial compliance of the directions issued by this court, in earnest and in letter and spirit. However, in view of the corona pandemic and the ensuing lockdown coupled with exigencies of service, the applicant has not been able to complete the same and requires some more time to complete the entire process.”

A bench headed by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud will take up the matter for hearing on Tuesday.

The top court had delivered the verdict on February 17, where it made clear that women officers had to be treated at par with their male counterparts.

The apex court had observed that the blanket non-consideration of women for criteria or command appointments, absent an individuated justification, by the Army cannot be sustained in law. Also, the absolute bar on women seeking criteria or command appointments would not comport with the guarantee of equality under Article 14.

This verdict had come 14 years after 11 women officers initiated the litigation in the Delhi High Court.

The Centre, in its application, said: “On account of the complete lockdown, all offices of the government were closed and the personnel were not functioning. Thereafter, in mid April, the lockdown was partially lifted and only essential government (functionaries) were permitted to attend their official duties. Thus on account of lack of staff, closure of hospitals, including the army hospitals and non-availability of other requirements necessary to comply.

“It was very difficult to continue with the process of consideration of women officers for grant of permanent commission.” The apex court had asked Centre to comply with its order within three months, which expired on May 17.

Seeking an extension the Centre prayed before the apex court, “This court may kindly be pleased to extend the period of three months granted to the applicant, to comply with the judgement and order on February 17, by a further period of 6 months.”

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