The Defence Ministry has informed the Supreme Court that a notification allowing women candidates to appear for the entrance exam to the National Defence Academy (NDA) will be out by May next year. The Ministry has informed that keeping the timeline in mind, deliberate planning and meticulous preparation are needed to ensure smooth induction and seamless training of such women candidates.

The Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul was hearing a plea filed by Advocate Kush Kalra raising the issue of exclusion of eligible and willing female candidates from joining the prestigious NDA, solely on the ground of sex, which is alleged to be a violation of the fundamental right of equality. It is contended in the plea that the duration of training for the Short Service Commission for women officers is very less compared to the training that a male permanent commission officer, who gets entry through the NDA, gains.

The Government's Stand

"The Government of India, in line with its commitment, hereby place on record its clear and categorical stand that the women candidates shall be considered for entry in the three defence services, in the existing streams, through National Defence Academy," said in an affidavit filed before the Bench.

The NDA entrance exams are held twice a year and the government proposes to have necessary mechanisms in place by May 2022, by when the UPSC is required to publish the first notification next year, for the exam, the affidavit stated.

The affidavit filed by the government highlighted the action taken by the government to implement its decision. The affidavit said, a Study Group has been constituted by the Defence services, comprising of the experts, to expeditiously formulate the comprehensive curriculum for women cadets at NDA. A Board of Officers has been convened to give a holistic and futuristic proposal for training of women Cadets at NDA, incorporating all relevant aspects.

The Centre had earlier told the Supreme Court that the armed forces have decided to induct women into the NDA. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, had said that a decision has been taken at the highest level of the armed forces, as also the government, that females will be inducted for permanent commission through the NDA.

The petition pending before the Supreme court states that UPSC conducts the 'National Defence Academy & Naval Academy Examination' and as per eligibility criteria, any unmarried male candidate with the required educational qualification and aged between 15-18 years can appear in it. The candidate, on qualifying the exam and on successful completion of training at the NDA and subsequent training at the respective academy of the service the cadet opts for, gets commissioned into the service as a permanent commissioned officer by the age of 19-22 years. This opportunity to take the NDA and Naval Academy Examination at the age of 15-18 years, with the eligible academic qualifications is not available to eligible and willing female candidates and the sole reason for this categorical exclusion is on the basis of their sex.

The NDA is likely to get its first ever batch of women cadets in January 2023.

With PTI Inputs