A PIL has been moved in the Delhi High Court seeking recruitment of gainfully employed women in the Territorial Army, an organisation of volunteers who receive military training in order to be mobilised for the country’s defence in case of an emergency.
The petition said that at present only gainfully employed men are recruited into the TA, the second line of defence after the regular Indian Army, and alleged that this amounts to “institutionalised discrimination”. “At present, Territorial Army (TA) recruits only males (gainfully employed). Due to this institutionalised discrimination, women are being deprived of their right to serve in Territorial Army.
“This discrimination on grounds of gender is violative of fundamental freedoms and human rights of the women,” the plea, filed by lawyer Kush Kalra, stated. Unlike the Indian Armed Forces, TA is not a profession, occupation or a source of employment and is meant for those who are already in mainstay civilian professions, the plea filed through advocate Jyotika Kalra said, adding gainful employment or self-employment in a civil profession is a pre-requisite for joining.
The role of the TA, in which actor Mohanlal and cricketers Kapil Dev and M S Dhoni are honorary members holding senior ranks, is to “relieve the regular army from static duties and assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities….” It also helps in maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the community is affected or the security of the country is threatened, and also provides units for the regular army, the PIL states.
The petitioner said that in August this year he saw a recruitment advertisement inviting gainfully employed men to join the TA and thereafter, he wrote to the TA that not recruiting women amounts to discrimination. In response, the TA said that as per the provisions of the Territorial Army Act, women are not eligible to join the organisation, the petition said. The petitioner claimed that the “state has a duty to ensure that there is no discrimination practiced by anyone in the country and non-recruitment of female candidates who are gainfully employed is against the spirit of the Constitution of India”.
He has sought that the provisions of the Act which prohibit recruitment of women into the TA be either struck down or be interpreted in such a manner that both sexes can join the organisation.