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Supreme Court Questions Centre’s ‘Patriarchal’ Approach

The Supreme Court has questioned the Centre for having a “patriarchal” approach to permanent commissions for women in the Coast Guard, questioning why the force should be different when the Army and Navy have already implemented the policy.

A bench led by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud stated that if women can guard borders, they can also protect beaches, adding that the government continues talking about “women power” and that it was time for it to demonstrate its commitment.

On Monday, while hearing a case filed by Priyanka Tyagi, a woman Coast Guard short service appointment officer, the Chief Justice stated, “You (the Union government) speak of Nari Shakti, Nari Shakti, now show it here. I don’t think the Coast Guard can say that they can be out of bounds when the Army, Navy have done it. Why are you so patriarchal that you do not want to see women in the Coast Guard sector? Why do you have an indifferent attitude towards the Coast Guard.”

The bench, also comprising Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra, was responding to the argument by Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee that the Coast Guard operates in a different domain than the Army and the Navy. 

“We will open up the whole canvas. Gone are the days when it was said that women cannot be in the Coast Guard. If women can protect the borders, women can also protect the coasts,” the bench said, pointing out that it seemed that the Supreme Court’s landmark Babita Punia judgment had not been read.

The court ruled in 2020 that women officers in the Army should be allowed permanent commissions. It had rejected the government’s argumentation of “physiological limitations and social norms,” claiming that it contradicted the notion of equality and smelt of gender bias.

Ms Tyagi was part of the Coast Guard’s first all-female crew, which was tasked with maintaining the force’s fleet of Dornier planes. In her petition, she sought parity with male officers for permanent commission. Ms Tyagi was discharged from service in December after being denied consideration for a permanent appointment, and the Delhi High Court refused to grant interim relief.

Arguing on behalf of Ms Tyagi, Senior Advocate Archana Pathak Dave invoked the fundamental right of equality and said that, just like in the Army, women personnel should be promoted and given the opportunity to become commissioned officers in the Coast Guard. 

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