When Barack Obama visited India in January 2015, he was accorded a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi. It was a grand welcome followed by the Guard of Honour, where the battalion was lead by a woman officer. This way, Wing Commander Pooja Thakur became the first woman officer to lead the Guard of Honour for a major visiting dignitary at the presidential palace.
However, on Thursday, she sued the Indian Air Force for denying her permanent commission. She has moved to the Armed Forces Tribunal, alleging that IAF’s decision to deny her full service was “biased, discriminatory, arbitrary and unreasonable.”
According to a report by NDTV, The Air Force has been asked to respond in four weeks.
Thakur, who is being represented by retired Major S Pandey said, “IAF says Pooja Thakur was offered permanent commission in 2012, she declined it then and it can be offered only once. No new offer can be given.” Adding to this, he said that this was not a gender issue but a procedural one.
Justifying her initial refusal of permanent commission, he said that she refused the offer as she was not ready to take up full service at the time.
Daughter of an Army Colonel, Thakur joined the Air Force in 2000.
In June, the Air Force took in its first batch of women fighter pilots, but only as short commission officers – they have to retire within fourteen months without any benefits. With Permanent commission, they will have a chance to rise to the rank of Lieutenant General and retire at 60 with full benefits.
Women were allowed in the air force as full officers only in 2010 after nearly 50 women officers including 22 from the IAF moved to court. 250 women benefited after the high court ruled in their favour.