Marking a land mark judgement that will further empower Indian women, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has ruled in favor of women in uniform and asked the Army to change some of their rules.
In a recent hearing, the court said that a woman candidate who conceives during the selection process cannot be permanently debarred from joining as a doctor in the Army Medical Corps (AMC) on the pretext that she became pregnant.
Justice Harinder Singh Sidhu then further added that such an action has no place in modern India and that a woman cannot be forced to make a choice between bearing a child and her employment.
In this matter, the petitioner had applied for a vacancy in the AMC in early 2013 and was granted short service commission in the AMC in the rank of a captain, following an interview in July 2013. She was asked to join the service in February 2014.
She, in the mean time, was asked to clear all her examinations and medical tests. However, between 2013 and February 2014, the petitioner conceived and disclosed this information to the AMC on the date of her joining.
After disclosing the information about her pregnancy, she was not allowed to assume her duties and was told she was not allowed to do so because her pregnancy amounted to deterioration in health.
The woman’s AMC candidature was then cancelled and she was advised to undergo the entire selection process again, if she wanted to join AMC.
Aggrieved by what happened, the woman moved High Court in mid 2014 and said that a pregnancy didn’t mean ‘deterioration in health,’ rather was a mere incidence of marriage and womanhood.
She then pointed out that had she not disclosed her pregnancy on the day or her joining or had she conceived a day after joining or even given birth before the joining date, she would not have faced this problem.
According to the armed forces rules, uniformed doctors are simply asked to join after childbirth in case any problem arises due to pregnancy. Further, unlike other branches of the parliamentary force, a married women till the age of 45 is eligible to join AMC. The eligibility age in AMC is kept higher as they don’t undergo any training in the military academy. They can also join a military hospital closest to their residence. All that they need to do is complete their basic in-service course of eight weeks within a flexible period of time.
After hearing the aggrieved doctor’s plea, Justice Sidhu passed a 36 page order on the petition which in detail discussed the constitutional provisions, conventions & judicial precedents around the globe.
Justice Sidhu, though also noted that in such cases, keeping the nature of employment in consideration, the government can instead grant maternity leave or keep a vacancy reserved for the concerned woman, and the same position can thus be offered to her after childbirth.