All recruitment to Army Dental Corps will henceforth be gender neutral: Centre tells SC

All recruitment to the Army Dental Corps (ADC) will henceforth be gender neutral and there will be no separate quotas for males and females, the government has told the Supreme court.

The apex court had on April 11 frowned upon the recruitment to the ADC where just 10 per cent of vacancies were meant for women, observing it was like “putting the clock in reverse direction”.

Additional Solicitor General K M Nataraj informed a bench of Justices BR Gavai, Vikram Nath and Sanjay Karol on May 8 that the government has decided to do away with separate quotas for men and women and all future recruitment will be gender neutral.

The order was uploaded on the apex court’s website on Wednesday.

The top court recorded the submission of ASG and disposed of a plea filed by women dental doctors led by Gopika Nair, a Coimbatore resident.

“ASG further submits that hereinafter the selection would be made by applying gender neutral formula. In that view of the matter, we find that the grievance of the petitioners stands satisfied. The special leave petition is disposed of accordingly”, the bench said.

Nataraj informed the court that in accordance with its directions the petitioners who had moved the SC and those before the High Court of Punjab and Haryana and the High Court of Madhya Pradesh were interviewed by the respondents, and as per the result sheet, three female candidates find place in the list of 27 people.

“It is submitted that the said three female candidates would be appointed as per their position in the select list of first 27 candidates. It is submitted that insofar as three seats reserved for female category are concerned, they would be filled by the female candidates as per their merit after the first 27 candidates are appointed,” the court recorded in its order dated May 8.

Nataraj submitted since there are other vacancies, three more male candidates would also be accommodated.

On April 11, the top court had pulled up the Centre for setting aside only 10 per cent seats for women in the ADC, observing “Prima facie, we find that depriving the highly meritorious female candidates from participating in the selection process is putting the clock in reverse direction.”

“Prima facie, we are of the view that the stand of the respondent is violative of Article 14 (equality before law) of the Constitution of India. Whereas the male candidates who have rank till 2394 are permitted to participate in the selection process, in so far as the female candidates are concerned, the cut-off rank is 235,” it had said.

The Centre had attributed the minuscule representation of women in ADC to the exigencies that are peculiar to the defence forces.

The bench had then said, “We find that an anomalous situation has arisen due to such a stand. Whereas a male candidate who is 10 times less meritorious than a female candidate is permitted to appear in the selection process, a female candidate who is 10 times meritorious than a male candidate is deprived from participating in the selection process.”

“Leave aside giving preferential treatment to the female as envisaged under Article 15 of the Constitution of India, the stand of the respondent-Union of India is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India, inasmuch as it deprives a meritorious female to compete and permits much less meritorious male to participate in the selection process,” the top court had said.

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The top court was hearing a plea challenging the order of the Delhi High Court dated January 27, 2023 vacating the status quo ordered earlier on the ADC recruitment results.

The high court had passed the order on a plea filed by Nair and others challenging a July 2021 advertisement for the Army Dental Corps.

All petitioners had participated in the selection process.

They claimed the process was unconstitutional and violative of the Supreme Court’s 2020 judgement in Babita Puniya case (grant of permanent commission to women in defence forces).

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