The Delhi High Court on Monday sought the Centre's stand on a plea concerning the allegedly unconstitutional practice of having only women nurses in the military.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Sachin Datta issued notice on an application by Indian Professional Nurses Association seeking to stay a central government advertisement inviting female candidates (only) to join military nursing service and granted six weeks to the respondent to file its reply.

The Bench refused to pass any interim order at this stage, saying it cannot disrupt the services.

The application forms part of the Association's pending writ petition challenging the illegal practice of appointment of only women as military nurses.

Advocate Dr. Amit George, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the application concerned the continuation of a discriminatory practice against males, which is purely based on a stereotype, and the advertisement was in violation of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution.

The Advocate further informed that the central government has defended the practice in its response filed to the petition by claiming that there is no real discrimination and the policy is not discriminatory.

In the application, the petitioner said that while the writ petition is pending, it is manifestly impermissible for the respondent to seek to perpetuate the manifestly illegal and abhorrent gender discrimination practice being followed by it for a future generation of nurses in public employment.

In its plea, the Indian Professional Nurses Association has said that there were several thousand males trained and qualified as professional nurses in India and their omission from the nursing corps of the Army was "unjustifiable and unconstitutional inasmuch it deprives them of an avenue of employment and professional advancement".

"The said omission also deprives the military and the nation of a large pool of committed professionals," the petition, filed through advocates George and Rishabh Dheer, said.

The PIL has challenged the provisions of the Military Nursing Service Ordinance 1943 and the Military Nursing Service (India) Rules 1944, to the extent they provide only for the appointment of women.

It has also contended that the Ordinance and the Rules "also perpetuate the stigmatisation and ostracism of male nurses, by singling them out and making them feel unwanted".

It has said that such discrimination is contrary to the constitutional scheme and is, therefore, "ex-facie unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary".

In October 2018, the high court had termed as "gender discrimination" the Indian Army's practice of having only women in its nursing service while granting time to the Centre to decide on the issue.

The matter would be heard next on July 20.

With PTI inputs