The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected the Centre’s plea to defer the first National Defence Academy (NDA) exam for women candidates, and directed they should be allowed to sit for the upcoming exam on November 14.
A bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said: “This won’t send the right signal to women after having given them the aspiration. Let’s begin from this year.”
As Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, submitted “your lordships may allow us to skip this examination (November 14) which is going to take place, for which your lordships had passed the interim order”, the bench said: “Let us see the result — how many will take it and how many women will clear the exam”, as it emphasised that it finds it difficult to postpone everything by a year.
“Having given some hope to the women to take the examination in November, we don’t want to belie that hope now..,” it said.
The bench said the planning can go on and appreciated Centre’s endeavour to develop a curriculum and infrastructure for the women cadets, as it reiterated that the Armed Forces should allow women to appear for the NDA exam in November this year, and not wait till May 2022.
Bhati contended that in the very next exam, the first exam of 2022, the girls can participate. “Your Lordships will appreciate that there is a fixed number of every course of NDA – the standards will have to be fixed to start with.. the medical standards etc,” she said.
However, the bench also comprising Justice B.R. Gavai noted that postponing the process of allowing women to appear in the NDA exam to May will delay their induction to 2023.
Noting that the armed forces are the people who deal with everything in emergency, Justice Kaul said: “They are the best response team we can get in the country. So, I don’t believe that the armed services response team will not be able to deal with the scenario.”
The Centre had sought a six-month period to make all preparations. The bench replied: “we will permit you six months without saying no exam. Once we passed an order and created hopes in the candidates having gone this far, we say try your luck next time?”
The bench reiterated that the admission of women cannot be postponed, while taking note of the submissions made by senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, representing the petitioner Kush Kalra, that two exams are held by the NDA during a year for the admissions to the next year.
The Centre has told the Supreme Court that a study group has been constituted by the defence services to expeditiously formulate a comprehensive curriculum for women cadets, and a notification allowing women candidates to take the entrance exam for entry into all three defence services in the existing streams through the NDA will be released in May 2022.
In an affidavit, the government said: “A study group has been constituted by the defence services, comprising of experts to expeditiously formulate the comprehensive curriculum for women cadets at NDA and 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.”