Unscrambling the Gendered Underpinnings Via Babita Puniya – The RMLNLU Legislation Assessment Weblog

By: Vasundhara Mehta

The Supreme Courtroom (hereinafter SC), in Secretary, Ministry of Protection vs. Babita Puniya and Ors. has unequivocally highlighted its quest to bid adieu to entrenched gender inequalities, particularly the varieties which stem from stereotypical notions. Seen as a feminist victory, the justices reaffirmed the dedication of the Apex Courtroom towards safeguarding girls’s constitutional rights and laid the inspiration for recognition of oblique discrimination (Lt. Colonel Nitisha vs. Union of India).


In 1992, in furtherance of the ability vested in it underneath part 12 of the Military Act, the Central Authorities declared the appointment of ladies as officers in sure particular cadres, together with the Quick Service Fee (hereinafter ‘SSC’) for five years. In 2003, Babita Puniya filed a Public Curiosity Litigation demanding Everlasting Fee (hereinafter ‘PC’) for girls serving within the SSC. Subsequently, the tenure of serving within the SSC was prolonged to 14 years. In 2008, the Ministry of Protection (hereinafter ‘MoD’) granted PC to girls serving within the SSC prospectively, just for the positions of Choose Advocate Generals and Military Schooling Corps.

The Delhi Excessive Courtroom, in 2010, dominated that the possible nature of the choice was incorrect and that ladies SSC officers should be granted PC after 5 years. The Indian Military moved the SC difficult this order in 2011 however the Apex Courtroom upheld it.

In 2019, one other round permitted PC for girls serving within the SSC in eight extra arenas prospectively. Nevertheless, upon the grant of PC, the scope of employment of ladies officers can be restricted to ’employees appointments’ solely. This raised a urgent concern – one which was addressed by the SC within the prompt matter – whether or not girls officers could possibly be granted PC and command appointments.


The MoD argued that sure physiological limitations cease girls wanting being appropriate for the military and that the extended absence of ladies from service could possibly be attributed to childbirth and different familial tasks (para 36). Additional, the circumstances of employment within the military would negatively have an effect on not solely the profession of the girl’s partner but additionally the tutorial prospects of her kids (para 35). Whereas referring to the case of Union of India vs. PK Chaudhary (para 28), the MoD said that taking the selections on coverage issues is just not the judiciary’s prerogative. The MoD contended that the repercussions of ladies being taken Prisoner of Battle (hereinafter ‘PoW’) may shock the nationwide conscience. Additional, whereas referring to ‘unit cohesion, it was said that taking orders from a person with ‘inferior’ physiological capabilities might be a problem for male troopers, thereby affecting the chain of command. The MoD proposed that ladies who had served as much as 14 years could possibly be granted PC appointments and girls who had served greater than 14 years can be eligible to obtain an extension of tenure as much as 20 years, offering them with a possibility to be launched with a pension.

Respondents submitted that ladies had served in hostile areas. There was no information on file to point that owed to any physiological limitations, there had been a hindrance within the method through which obligation was carried out by girls. It was argued that the MoD was guided by stereotypical opinions. The prevalence of gender bias was talked about as a motive which blocked the optimum improvement of ladies’s careers.

The Courtroom noticed that the arguments superior by the MoD mirrored stereotypical assumptions and the Authorities’s proposal to grant PC just for employees appointments have been taken to be violative of Articles 14, 15 and 16(1) of the Structure. Acknowledging that Article 33 of the Structure offers for sure restrictions on the implementation of basic rights within the armed forces, the SC dominated that these limitations are relevant solely when they’re vital for upholding self-discipline and obligation (para 44 – 48). Thus, the order of the Delhi Excessive Courtroom was upheld. All girls officers serving within the SSC are actually eligible for PC and command appointments, not withstanding the variety of years they’ve served. Ladies shall be given the proper to select from all areas of specialization, on an equal footing with their male counterparts.

Following the judgment, the enforceability of expressions like “employees appointments solely” has been nullified. Ladies officers who’re eligible or have been granted PC are entitled to all consequential advantages.


A look by way of the gender-sensitive lens uncovers a patriarchal and gendered division of labor in society, which systematically subordinates girls. Ladies are sometimes perceived as ‘homemakers’ whereas males are the ‘breadwinners’. That is akin to the separate sphere ideology, per which the non-public area was ascribed to girls and the general public sphere belonged completely to males. The implications of this principle are so interwoven into the material of the society that traits that are rewarded by the army are intricately related to conventional masculinist notions.

Although the arguments put forth by the MoD have been rejected by the SC, it’s fascinating to notice that they undeniably stem from a notion of militarized masculinity. Feminist scholar Sandra Whitworth factors out that endeavor coaching within the army focuses on the creation of a ‘brotherhood’; and for the initiation of this brotherhood, there’s usually an emphasis on masculine and heteronormative practices. In different phrases, as Catherine Lutz places it, a common thought of ​​heterosexual male supremacy is glorified within the army as an establishment. RW Connell labels the phenomena of this stereotypical picture as ‘hegemonic masculinity’, a kind of ‘culturally dominant masculinity that could be a socially constructed thought. Regardless that it doesn’t resemble the precise character of most males, it “sustains patriarchal authority and legitimizes a patriarchal political and social order.”

Joshua Goldstein in his e book, ‘Battle and Gender’ highlights the idea of a ‘heroic picture of achieved manhood’. Males are thus the ‘protectors’ however when girls take to arms, they’re referred to as fighters for ‘peace’, and their position is seen as ancillary to that of males. As an illustration, entry into the US-led struggle in Afghanistan was justified as a gallant intrusion on behalf of presumably helpless Afghani girls. The Taliban retort was additionally molded by the gendered justification of defending ‘their’ girls from exterior affect. This ‘delusion of safety’ tends to justify struggle by overlooking the issues inflicted on girls and kids.

I feel that the SC, in Babita Puniya, has refuted token efforts and comfort prizes that have been provided by the MoD within the identify of gender fairness. The SC had beforehand, within the case of Joseph Shine vs. Union of India struck down a place of legislation which perpetuated gender stereotypes and discriminated in opposition to married girls. To disclaim girls positions they need and deserve underneath the garb of safeguarding their potential spouses and kids constitutes ‘protecting discrimination, an idea reinstated in Treasa Josephine vs. State of Kerala and Anuj Garg vs. Resort Affiliation, whereby gender-based stratification was held to be unreasonable, whatever the potential threats that ladies face. Thus, the intent could also be to guard girls, however the outcomes are discriminatory.

One other argument superior by the MoD pertained to the protection and safety of ladies. Relating girls to ‘nationwide delight’ if they’re taken as PoW stems from a perception that males should defend ‘their’ girls. Deeply rooted in stereotypical notions, ‘paternal romanticism’ has been acknowledged by the American courts to position girls “not on a pedestal, however in a cage…” (Frontiero vs. Richardson). This case was relied upon by the Apex Courtroom within the Anuj Garg case, by way of which the ‘anti-stereotyping’ precept was bolstered.

On the query of security, who’s to ensure that ladies are protected inside their very own houses? The danger of violence to girls usually stems from inside their very own homes with brutal cases of home violence and marital rape. Additional, the idea that each lady shall want to have a baby perpetuates societal expectations. The SC acknowledged the pervasive nature of bias emanating from organic determinism in Babita Puniya (para. 54). Notably, the affect of unfavourable stereotyping is extraordinarily dangerous because it acts as an obstacle in the way in which of ladies holding positions of energy, as has additionally been acknowledged by the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Motion, 1995.


Equality of the genders doesn’t imply they’re the identical, physiologically or in any other case. It implies that the variations shouldn’t be a floor for denying any gender equal alternative. Babita Puniya is a laudable judgment, which has reinstated gender fairness in a male-dominated institution, and in the end led to the landmark victory of ladies in Lt. Colonel Nitisha vs. Union of India.

Some opinion that such measures represent a superficial involvement of ladies within the army. Noura Erakat, for instance, opines that the exclusion of ladies from this sphere has historically made them understand the military as fascinating. She requires a ‘important engagement with the establishment of armed forces. But, I imagine that offering an equal alternative to girls assures constitutional safety and privilege. The writer believes that may by no means be superficial. Ladies who’re desirous of accomplishing command positions are cognizant of the ramifications. They don’t want coverage choices taken by males, stating what is good for them. In regards to the ‘sensible elements’ and issues which are usually raised for nationwide safety, let girls like Lt. Colonel Mitali Madhumita and Squadron chief Minty Agarwal not be forgotten. Notably, the Apex Courtroom, in Babita Puniya, has acknowledged the fantastic achievements of ladies officers (para. 56).

(Vasundhara is a legislation undergraduate from Symbiosis Legislation College, Pune[2018-2023]. The writer could also be contacted through mail at [email protected])

Cite as: Vasundhara Mehta, ‘The Case for ‘She’ Roes within the Military: Unscrambling the Gendered Underpinnings Via Babita Puniya’ (The RMLNLU Legislation Assessment Weblog01 October 2022) date of entry.

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