For the first time in history, female candidates will now have the opportunity to join the Indian Defence Forces through the National Defence Academy & Naval Academy Examination (NDA & NA) conducted by the Union Public Service Commission. In a major breakthrough, the Supreme Court has reportedly directed the Government to make provisions for the recruitment of female candidates for permanent commissioning in Army, Navy and Air Force wings from the next NDA exams.
The NDA exam is conducted by the UPSC twice a year through which, eligible candidates are selected for admission to defence academies and subsequent commissioning in the various wings of the Indian Defence Forces, upon successful completion of training.
Until now, there was no provision for the recruitment of female candidates through the NDA exams. This is because the NDA has only been open for unmarried male candidates within the age of 15 to 18 years. As a result, numerous female candidates who are otherwise eligible and interested, have been rendered ineligible solely on the basis of gender.
Advocate Kush Kalra filed a petition with the Supreme Court earlier to raise the issue of such discrimination against female candidates in regards to recruitment to fill up vacancies in Indian Defence Forces. As per the petitioner, gender-based discrimination of otherwise eligible female candidates is a direct violation of the fundamental right to equality rendered by the Constitution of India.
There is no justifiable explanation of the NDA’s policy to recruit only male candidates through the exam. As s result, the policy violates and dishonours the Constitutional values of equality and non-discrimination, the petition stated. The petitioner also highlighted that the duration of training for the commissioning of women officers through the Short Service Commission is also not adequate. However male candidates who get entry to the defence forces through NDA receive a significant quality of training over a duration of around 04 years before they are finally commissioned as officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
Upon directions by the apex court, the Government has responded by confirming that such discrimination will be eradicated and a new notification for next year’s NDA exam will be out by May 2022. The Defence Ministry has also maintained that it will require careful planning and preparation to ensure a seamless process of recruitment and training of female candidates through NDA for permanent commissioning in the defence forces.
It is also being reported that the Government is conducting a Study Group comprised of officials of the Defence Forces to formulate a comprehensive curriculum for training and recruitment of female candidates. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati has also confirmed that the decision for permanent commissioning of female candidates has already been taken at the highest levels of the defence forces and the government.