indian army women
indian army womenReuters

The Indian Army has justified its policy of barring married women from applying to the Judge Advocate General (JAG), the Army's legal branch, by informing the Delhi High Court that it wants to make sure women officers complete their period of training without taking any leave "necessitated by pregnancy or domestic needs resulting from marriage" as that would affect their rigorous training.

The army also said that both unmarried male and female candidates are not allowed to enter into a wedlock during the training period which lasts for 10 months.

"It is therefore submitted that a female married candidate, due to the peculiarities of gender, may not be able to meet with the rigorous training which they may be subjected to during the period of their training at the OTA without sacrificing efficiency," it said in an affidavit, adding that female officers could get married once the training period ended.

It said that the rule is a "reasonable restriction... to ensure that they are invariably in a physical condition which would enable them to participate in pre-commissioning training." The affidavit also stated that the "restriction applies to male candidates also in the sense that during pre-commissioning training they cannot get married if otherwise unmarried."

The Army responded to a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking for the restriction to be removed filed by law student Kush Kalra who thought that the policy was "discriminatory and unconstitutional", the Press trust of India (PTI) reported.

"Due to this institutionalised discrimination, married female candidates who are law graduates are being deprived of their right to serve in JAG department of Indian Army... This discrimination on grounds of gender is violative of the fundamental right of equality before law, right not to be discriminated on the ground of sex, equality of opportunity in matters of public employment, fundamental right to practice any profession and occupation and human rights of the women," Kalra's petition stated requesting the court to declare this policy unconstitutional.

The petition also alleged "uneven distribution/allocation of seats for women" while recruiting into the department. Vacancies for men were shown as 10 while for there were only four seats advertised for women. Therefore, it also requested for a stay on the recruitment process for 2017 as the application called for unmarried women and married/unmarried men.

However, the Army stated that it had the "right to determine eligibility criteria" for several posts and that a "married female candidate is barred from applying to any of the departments in the Army as a general rule" and not just the JAG.

It also stated that such "rules are not to create a discriminatory regime but only to facilitate seamless entry of women and absorption in the forces."