The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to entertain a plea by women officers, seeking grant of pensionable service benefits to women SSC officers, who had completed 14 years in service after the cut-off date applicable in the court's February 17 verdict, which directed permanent commission be granted to women in the army.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, K.M. Joseph and Indu Malhotra said allowing one batch of officers cannot be done, because then the other batches can also ask for similar orders.
Dismissing the plea, Justice Chandrachud said it is difficult to address these matters as they all are in the service of the nation.
"We feel that they should be able to do something for them, but where do we draw the line?" said the bench.
In its order, the top court said: "The relief which has been sought in the interlocutory applications would, in substance, amount to a review of the directions contained in sub paragraphs (c) and (d) of paragraph 69.1 of the judgment dated 17 February 2020 of this court."
On February 17, the top court in the landmark judgement directed Centre to consider within three months, all serving SSC women for permanent commissions, irrespective of them having crossed 14 years, or as the case may be, 20 years of service.
The top court noted that to allow the plea for one batch of officers, who had completed 14 years of service in March 2020, to avail benefits associated with permanent commissions, may have serious implications, and this plea effectively amounts to review of February judgement.
Counsel representing the women officers argued that the apex court verdict came in February and the officers completed 14 years in service in March. Therefore, they should get benefits, as the government began implementing orders only in July.
Advocate Col. Balasubramanian, representing the Defence Ministry, contested this argument. He submitted before the bench that on July 16, the government passed the orders in connection with permanent commission, and all those who completed 14 years in service as on the cut-off date of February 17 will get benefits.
Balasubramanian argued that if the matter remains open-ended, then it will become difficult for the government to implement the order. "Every six months, a batch gets commissioned. We cannot allow them to get benefits like this," he added.
The bench noted that according to its judgement, those who had completed 14 years of service as on the date of the judgment will get pension and permanent commission benefits. "The cut-off is the date of the judgment. If we modify it, then we will have to modify for successive batches," said the bench.
Justice Chandrachud said these women officers had completed 14 years in March and the court had given a cut-off date. "The government order came later. How far back can we go?" he added. "We are, therefore, not inclined to entertain the interlocutory applications since they are not maintainable. The miscellaneous applications are accordingly dismissed."
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