New Delhi, March 22 (IANS) The Centre on Wednesday told the Delhi High Court that its policy of excluding married candidates in the recruitment of the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department, the legal branch of the Indian Army, during the training period is a "reasonable restriction" placed in public interest and national security.
It argued in support of the policy that it believes the ban on marriage during the training period prior to successful commission is a legitimate limitation put in place in the benefit of the applicants as well as the organisation.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Kush Kalra against the bar on the appointment of candidates aged 21 to 27 years, both male and female, irrespective of their marital status, in the JAG department.
The High Court last year in December had granted four weeks time to the Centre to file an affidavit explaining the reason behind the exclusion of married candidates in the recruitment of the JAG department.
It has been submitted that both men and women are treated equally in the Indian Army and are granted equal opportunity in all service conditions and benefits.
However, the government states that the condition of being unmarried for both male and female candidates aged between 21 to 27 years for grant of commission is restricted only for the period of recruitment and pre-commissioned training "which involves a high amount of physical and mental stress, strain and rigours of military training".
"Once unmarried lady cadets and gentlemen cadets complete their training and are granted commission, there is no bar for getting married or its natural consequences of pregnancy etc and service benefits viz. maternity leave, child care leave, paternity leave or married accommodation etc. During conduct of Basic Military Training, which lasts for minimum one year, such provisions are not possible," the response states.
The government further said that since pregnancy and giving birth to a child is considered as natural right for a women and she cannot be deprived of that, "such precautionary conditions" have been laid down in the interest of women candidates themselves.
"With regard to male officers the answering respondents, without prejudice, respectfully submit that the rigor of training and initial years of service do not permit an officer to get married during training or to address certain requirements of married life to include situations of emergency," the response added.
Earlier, the court was informed that initially, only married female candidates were restricted entry into the JAG. Pointing out that there is no gender bias in the policy, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma on Wednesday told the court as per a fresh advertisement, even married men candidates won't be appointed.
"We have said only for training. Because the training is physical and mental and for the 11 months period of training, will not allow either married men or women. There is no gender bias. It is at par with the entire Army and is followed in all sections," the ASG had said.
"We have to train them in arms also. Suppose there is a contingency also, it will create a problem if married people get into training," he had added.
As this, the court had said: "Marriage and training can have no correlation with each other."
"If 42 days leave is granted or taken in whichever way, the 11 months course is annulled and relegated," ASG Sharma had argued.
Responding, the court said: "The advertisement says that applications are invited from unmarried males and females. If the person is married and goes for training, then how is that anyway going to affect training?"
Moreover, the court had also told ASG Sharma to inform the court as to whether the said policy is uniform in the Army or if it differs from course to course basis.
The matter is listed for the next hearing on July 17.