The Karnataka High Court in a writ petition filed against the Kendriya Sainik Board held that the title wherever reads as ex-servicemen in the annals of the policy-making of the Union or State Government shall be made “Gender Neutral”.

A Single Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna ordered –

“There was a time when women had no combatant role in any Force. There is a paradigm shift from the past. Women have reached combatant services in supervisory roles as officers and on other responsibilities, be it in the Indian Army; in the Indian Air Force and in the Indian Navy. This is in the public domain. Therefore, women have a role to play in the Forces, be it the Army, the Navy or the Air force. These are not the times where women have no role to play at all. Therefore, the word ‘men’ in the title, a part of word ex-servicemen, would seek to demonstrate a misogynous posture of an age old masculine culture. Therefore, the title wherever reads as ex-servicemen in the annals of policy making of the Government, be it the Union or the State concerned, should be made “Gender neutral”. There has to be a change in the mindset of the rule making authority or the policy makers, it is only then there could be recognition of commitment of the values of the Constitution, as equality should not remain a mere idle incantation, but has to be a vibrant living reality.”

The Bench also stated that it must be remembered that the extension of women’s rights is the basic principle of all social progress.

Advocate Vivek R. appeared on behalf of the petitioner.

DSGI H. Shanthi Bhushan appeared for the Kendriya Sainik Board and AGA B.V. Krishna for the State.

Facts of the Case –

The petitioner was the second daughter of the Police personnel who joined the services of the Indian Army in the year 1979 and was inducted into the Madras Engineering Group. In the year 2001, the father of the petitioner was deployed in an operation named Parakram at Gaziwala, Punjab. While performing his assigned task of mine clearance and handling with the Madras Engineering Group, H.P.O. – 2 Mine got exploded. Her father sustained grave injuries due to the blast and later succumbed to the injuries, by then he had put in 22 years of service. Later, her father was categorized as a serviceman “killed in action” and was, therefore, considered as “WARD OF BATTLE CASUALTY”. At the time of his death, the petitioner was 10 years old. The petitioner after completing her graduation became eligible to be considered for appointment in the State Government in any recruitment process that would ensue.

In the year 2019, The Directorate of the Department of Sainik Welfare and Resettlement, Government of Karnataka issued a compendium of all welfare schemes pertaining to veterans, widows, and disabled soldiers and their wards. As per several such welfare schemes, their wards were entitled to 10% of reservation in any recruitment process in all the departments of the Government. A notification came to be issued by the Government seeking to fill up the vacant posts of Assistant Professors in the Government First Grade colleges across the State. The recruitment notification was issued in terms of the Rules namely, the Karnataka Education Department Services (Collegiate Education Department) (Recruitment of Assistant Professor) (Special) Rules, 5 2020.

The notification did provide for reservation to the ex-servicemen or the ward of the ex-servicemen. The petitioner intending to apply for the post of Assistant Professor, as she was the ward of an ex-serviceman and finding herself eligible in all other criteria, approached the Deputy Director of Zilla Sainik Welfare Board for issuance of a dependent identity card to demonstrate that she is the ward of an ex-serviceman. However, he declined to issue an identity card on the ground that the petitioner is a married daughter. Hence, the petitioner approached the High Court to consider her case under the ex-servicemen quota.

The question for consideration before the High Court was “Whether the guidelines which portray gender inequality is tenable in law?” The Court in this regard noted, “It is the nomenclature of the guidelines that seeks to portray discrimination. The word used in the nomenclature is ex-servicemen. The word “men” in the title portrays such discrimination as it seeks to demonstrate that the Forces are still a bastion of the male, while it is not. The word ‘Ex-servicemen’ is referred to the defence personnel, be it from the Army, Navy or Air force who have retired or relieved or discharged except on account of a misconduct. A person after having rendered service and retires either from a combatant or non-combatant Force are considered as ex-servicemen.”

The Court held that the exclusion of married daughter for grant of an I-card is violative of Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution and struck down the words “till married” in the guideline.

The Court further directed, “Ex-consequenti, I direct respondents 3 and 4 issuance of an I-card to the petitioner, if all other parameters are satisfactory, within two weeks from the date of receipt of the copy of this order. … Karnataka Examination Authority shall consider the case of the petitioner under the ex-servicemen quota for the post of Assistant Professor in terms of the notification issued on 26.08.2021. Till such time, a post in the cadre of Assistant Professor in terms of the vacancies notified on 26.08.2021 shall be kept reserved for the petitioner.”

Accordingly, the Court allowed the writ petition.

Cause Title- Priyanka R. Patil v. Kendriya Sainik Board & Ors.

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