New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has raised questions regarding the prohibition of men from being employed as nurse in the Indian Army, challenging the Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 and the Military Nursing Service (India) Rules, 1944.
A division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Sanjeev Narula was hearing a plea filed by the Indian Professional Nurses Association, challenging the Military Nursing Service Ordinance and the Military Nursing Service (India) Rules, which provide that only women can be appointed in the Indian Military Nursing Service.
The bench questioned the rationale behind this gender-based restriction.
The court pointed out that if women can be posted at Siachen, one of the world’s highest battlefields, there seems to be no logical reason why men cannot be recruited as nurse in the Army.
Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Central government, argued that Army practices are deeply rooted in tradition.
However, the bench said that while the government is taking steps to empower women, there is a contradiction in disallowing men from joining as the Army nurse.
“… in Parliament, you are talking about empowering women, but you are saying men cannot join (Army) as nurse,” the bench said.
The bench also noted that the Supreme Court had recently allowed women to join the National Defence Academy, emphasising the importance of eliminating gender bias.
Advocate Amit George, representing the petitioner, argued that the prohibition against men serving as military nurses is outdated and based on Florence Nightingale’s historical perspective of nursing as a women-only profession.
He pointed out that there are many qualified male nurses at various hospitals now.
The court also acknowledged the significance of this issue and scheduled the matter for further consideration for November.
The Indian Professional Nurses Association had filed this case in 2018, saying that the gender-based discrimination in the Ordinance and Rules contradicts the constitutional principle of gender equality and should be deemed unconstitutional, illegal and arbitrary.