New Delhi: The Supreme Court has stayed orders of releasing six women Army officers from service and rapped the government for the action.

Coming to the aid of the women officers, the Apex Court said that contempt proceedings can be initiated since the case pertaining to their permanent commission is pending before it.

A bench of justices JM Panchal and HL Gokhale took strong exception to the release orders issued by the Army authorities for the six officers of the rank of Lieutenant Colonel when the matter is pending before it.

The court said that it had not stayed the Delhi High Court order which had asked Defence forces to grant permanent commission to the women officers.

"We have not stayed the order of the High Court. Have you yourself stayed the order? It amounts to contempt," the court said.
The court passed the order on an application filed by four out of the six officers seeking stay of the release orders.

The petitioners-Lt Col Sony Sharma, Lt Col Sini Marc, Lt Col Ritcha Sagar and Lt Col Navneet Duggal -pleaded before the court that they are being targeted by the government for approaching court for permanent commission for them.

Earlier, the court had asked the government to explore the possibility of giving them permanent commission in other non-combat branches in addition to the legal and educational wings.

In all there are 2,200 women officers including 1,200 in army, 750 in air force and 250 in navy, according to Defence Ministry figures.

Presently, women are inducted in the Army as officers under Short Service Commission for a maximum period of 14 years whereas their male counterparts are eligible to receive permanent commission after five years.

Serving women officers had won the first round of legal battle in the Delhi High Court which asked the government to grant permanent commission to women serving in the armed forces.

The Army had moved the Supreme Court challenging the High Court judgement.

Sixty serving and retired women officers from Army and Air Force had moved the High Court pleading that they should be treated equally with male officers.

(Agencies)