The Supreme Court on Tuesday sought a response from the Centre, asking why only 19 women candidates will be admitted in the National Defence Academy (NDA) out of 400 seats in 2023.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh told Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, that the government needs to clarify why 19 women candidates have been fixed for the year 2023, according to the notification issued by UPSC. The bench asked the Central government to bring on record the total number of women candidates, along with the over tally, who took the NDA examination in 2021.

During the hearing, the bench told Centre's counsel: "Last year, you said it was due to infrastructure problems (the intake of women will be less)...Now, again for the year 2022, you have proposed to take the same number of women candidates..."

The candidates who will take the NDA exam in 2022, will be admitted in 2023. The Centre's counsel contended before the bench that intake of women candidates in NDA is based on requirement of the force.

The petitioner Kush Kalra, in an additional affidavit, said, "To continue to keep the number of intake of female candidates at only 19 even for the next year, i.e., 2023 and only allowing male candidates in naval entry as per the examination Notice dated December 22, 2021 is arbitrary and violative of Article 14, 15, 16 and 19 of Constitution."

Senior advocate Chinmoy Pradip Sharma, representing the petitioner, argued that the current stand of the Centre is contrary to its stand reflected in the top court orders passed on August 18 and September 22 last year.

The bench further pressed its query to the Centre's counsel saying why the Central government has fixed the intake of women candidates to 19. The bench emphasised, "You have to explain this. 19 seats cannot be for all times to come..."

The Centre agreed to file a detailed affidavit, explaining why it has taken this stand, within three weeks.

The petitioner's affidavit said according to the advertisement issued by the UPSC and by the government, NDA will take in 400 cadets in the current NDA-II 2021 intake. "Of these, 208 candidates, including 10 women, will go to the Army. The Navy will take in 42 candidates, including 3 women, while the IAF will admit 120 candidates, of which 6 will be women. Thus, the total number of women to be inducted into the NDA in June 2022 is 19", it added.

The top court also sought response from the Central government on the intake of women in Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC), Rashtriya Military School (RMS), and Sainik Schools in 2022.

The top court gave three weeks to the Centre to file an affidavit and also asked the parties to file their rejoinder in two weeks. The matter has been posted for further hearing on March 6.

In September, last year, the apex court had allowed female candidates to take the entrance exam to the NDA scheduled November last year.

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