Monday, January 7, 2019

Not military justice, but . . .

Woman army officer in India takes Ministry of Defence to Supreme Court; Demands Her “Fundamental Right to Tend to Her Child”

A serving lady officer of the Indian Army has moved the Supreme Court against the Ministry of Defence and her superiors for being deprived of her fundamental right to tend to her infant child. The mother of a two-year-old, the lady officer is currently posted at the Jodhpur Base of the Indian army along with her husband who is also a serving army officer. She is a part of the Judge Advocate General's department of the army performing the duties of officer in-charge of the legal cell. Her husband is posted as the deputy judge advocate general at the same headquarters.

The lady officer was detailed as “Judge Advocate” in November 2018, in a court martial at the Regimental Centre at Kamptee, Nagpur, over 1000 km away from her of place of duty. She performed her duties from December 5 to December 18 during which her husband had to take leave from work to take care of their young child. On her return, she was asked to report back to Kamptee once again.

After receiving the second order, the officer made a verbal request to the superior officer to reconsider the same as she would have had to take her child with her to Nagpur, without any direct connectivity by air. According to officer when her repeated requests were rejected, she was forced to knock on the doors of the top court. She goes on to allege that there has been an “abuse of power” by her superior officers due to which they have been “highly inconsiderate” with her requests.

In her petition, the officer alleges that being deployed for a court martial is accompanied with an “uncertainty of conclusions”, by which she means that it can’t be predicted whether the court martial will last “two days, a week or six months”. Further, “most of these places do not provide the basic facility of a crèche for women officers.”

In her petition, the lady officer relies on the National Policy for Children issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development in 2013. According to officer, the National Policy, safeguards the interest and fundamental rights of the children along with their mothers irrespective of the fact that they may be a member of the armed forces. She has urged the Supreme Court to issue directions to the Ministry of Defence asking them to implement the National Policy for Children and provide necessary security and protection for children of lady officers, like her.

The case may come up for hearing in the Supreme Court very soon.

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