Terminating Women Officer On Ground Of Marriage Is Arbitrary : Supreme Court Asks Union To Pay Rs 60 Lakh Compensation To Ex-Military Nurse

Terminating Women Officer On Ground Of Marriage Is Arbitrary : Supreme Court Asks Union To Pay Rs 60 Lakh Compensation To Ex-Military Nurse

In a case where a woman nursing officer was terminated from the Military Nursing Service on the grounds of marriage, the Supreme Court firmly termed the same to be a ‘coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality‘. The Division Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta also reiterated that rules, on the basis of which such women officers were terminated because of their marriage, are unconstitutional.

Acceptance of such patriarchal rule undermines human dignity, right to non-discrimination and fair treatment. Laws and regulations based on gender-based bias are constitutionally impermissible. Rules making marriage of women employees and their domestic involvement a ground for disentitlement would be unconstitutional.,” the Court recorded in its order.

This is a case where the petitioner, was selected for Military Nursing Services and joined as a trainee at Army Hospital, Delhi. She was granted a commission to the rank of Lieutenant in the MNS. Consequently, she entered into wedlock with an Army officer, namely, Maj Vinod Raghwan.

However, she was released from the Army while serving in the rank of Lieutenant (Lt). The concerned order dispensed with her services without serving any show cause notice or opportunity of hearing or opportunity to defend her cause. Besides this, the order also showed that she was released on the grounds of marriage.

Imperatively, the MNS Branch was governed by Army Instruction No. 6 of 1977, titled “Terms and conditions of service for the grant of permanent commissions in the Military Nursing Service”. As per this, termination of appointment may be done on the opinion of the Medical Board to be unfit for service or getting married or for misconduct. The same read as:

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11. Termination of appointment- Appointment in the MNS will be terminated under the following conditions:- (a) On being pronounced by a medical board to be unfit for further service in the Armed Forces. (b) On getting married. (c) For misconduct, breach of contract or if services are found unsatisfactory.”

Initially, the matter went to the Armed Forces Tribunal, Lucknow, which had set aside the impugned order and also granted all consequential benefits and back wages. The Tribunal also granted restoration of her service. Against this backdrop, the Union approached the Top Court.

At the outset, the Court noted that these rules were only applicable to women and held such to be ‘manifestly arbitrary.’ The Court also observed that Army Instruction No. 61 of 1977 has been withdrawn.

This rule, it is accepted, was applicable to only women nursing officers. Such rule was exfacie manifestly arbitrary, as terminating employment because the woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality.,” the Court said.

Taking note of the fact that the respondent worked as a nurse in a private organization, the Court modified the Tribunal’s order for reinstatement.

The Court directed the Union to pay the petitioner compensation of Rs.60,00,000/. While directing this, the Court also clarified that this shall be in full and final settlement of all the claims.

Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the present case, we direct the appellant(s) to pay compensation of Rs.60,00,000/- (rupees sixty lakh only) to the respondent – within a period of eight weeks from the date a copy of this order is served/made available to them. In case the payment is not made within a period of eight weeks, the appellant(s) will pay interest at the rate of 12 per cent per annum from the date of this order till the payment is made.,” the Court stated in its order.

Source: livelaw

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