Supreme Court Rebukes Coast Guard for Discrimination, Calls for Equal Opportunities

In a landmark judgment on Monday, the Supreme Court of India castigated the Indian Coast Guard for the unwarranted termination of a female officer, Priyanka Tyagi, advocating for an end to discrimination within the forces. The apex court ordered the reinstatement of Officer Tyagi, emphasizing the need for equal treatment and opportunities for all, irrespective of gender.

Chief Justice D. Y. Chandrachud, presiding over a bench of three judges, directed the Indian Coast Guard to reassign Officer Tyagi to a significant position, commensurate with her qualifications and experience. The Court’s intervention came after Tyagi was released from her duties as a Short Service Commission officer in 2021, a move that drew widespread criticism and led to legal proceedings.

Expressing concern, Chief Justice Chandrachud questioned the Central Government’s opposition to Tyagi’s petition and highlighted the judiciary’s consistent stance against discrimination. He reminisced about past restrictions on women, including prohibitions on joining bars, becoming fighter pilots, and facing opposition in the Coast Guard due to inadequate facilities. “If women can perform in operating theaters or the Supreme Court bar, they are equally capable of serving in the high seas,” remarked the Chief Justice.

Senior Advocate Archana Pathak Dave, representing Tyagi, underscored the discrimination faced by female officers in the Coast Guard, a sentiment acknowledged by the Court. The Attorney General, R. Venkataramani, cautioned against comparing the Coast Guard with the Army and Navy, noting the distinct nature of each service.

The Supreme Court has previously issued rulings on permanent commissions within the Army, Navy, and Air Force, lamenting the Coast Guard’s lag in implementing similar policies. Officer Tyagi’s plea for permanent commissions for eligible female Short Service Commission officers in the Coast Guard underscores a broader call for gender equality within the armed forces.

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In a poignant remark during the last hearing, the Court urged the demonstration of ‘Nari Shakti’ (women’s power), challenging the Coast Guard to align with the progressive steps taken by other armed forces. The reference to the Babita Puniya verdict, which recognized the right of female Short Service Commission officers to permanent commissions on par with their male counterparts, further reinforces the judiciary’s commitment to eliminating gender bias in the military.

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