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Army Nurse Fired Over Marriage to Receive ₹60 Lakh in Damages

Terminating a woman’s employment on the grounds of marriage was “coarse case of gender discrimination” and any law based on a gender bias is “constitutionally impermissible”, the Supreme Court has said, ordering the Centre to pay ₹ 60 lakh in dues to a military nurse who was removed from service after she married.

A bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Dipankar Dutta passed the order on a request by Selina John, who was terminated from service upon her marriage in 1988. At the time, she held the rank of Lieutenant. She had approached the Armed Forces Tribunal in 2012, which ruled in her favour and ordered that she be reinstated. In 2019, however, the Centre appealed against the order in the Supreme Court.

In an order dated February 14, the bench held that the tribunal judgment does not require any interference. A rule introduced in 1977 that allowed dismissal from the Military Nursing Service on the grounds of marriage had been withdrawn in 1995, the court noted.

“Such rule was ex facie manifestly arbitrary, as terminating employment because the woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality. Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, right to non-discrimination and fair treatment. Laws and regulations based on gender-based bias are constitutionally impermissible. Rules making marriage of women employees and their domestic involvement a ground for disentitlement would be unconstitutional,” the bench said in the order.

The bench, however, modified the tribunal’s ruling to reinstate the employee and provide back wages. Instead, it asked the Centre to pay ₹ 60 lakh in compensation. The bench also noted that LJohn had worked as a nurse in a private organization for a short time. The court said the payment of compensation must be made within eight weeks of the Centre receiving the order.

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