SC terms woman military officer’s 1988 discharge ‘illegal’

Former permanent commissioned officer Lt. Selina John, of the MNS, was released from employment in 1988 on grounds of her marriage.
MNS (File Image)
MNS (File Image)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has directed the Ministry of Defence to pay Rs 60 lakh in compensation to a former permanent commissioned officer in the Military Nursing Service (MNS), ruling she was “wrongly” released from service in 1988 on grounds of her marriage.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta said that the termination of employment was a “coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality.”

Former permanent commissioned officer Lt. Selina John, of the MNS, was released from employment in 1988 on grounds of her marriage.

John then approached the Armed Forces Tribunal, Regional Bench, Lucknow, which called the termination “illegal” and directed her reinstatement with back wages. However, the Central government then moved the SC to challenge this order (‘Union of India & Others vs. Ex. Lt. Selina John’).

Dismissing the Centre’s challenge, the Supreme Court said on February 14 that John’s release from the service was “wrong and illegal”. The government has been directed to pay Rs 60 lakhs to her within eight weeks.

The court also rejected the Centre’s argument, based on a rule in force at the time. “This rule, it is accepted, was applicable to only women nursing officers. Such rule was ex facie manifestly arbitrary, as terminating employment because the woman has got married is a coarse case of gender discrimination and inequality,” the court said.

That rule – Army Instruction No. 61 of 1977 titled “Terms and Conditions of Service for the Grant of Permanent Commissions in the Military Nursing Service” – was later withdrawn by a letter dated August 29, 1995.

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