Breaking barriers: another Army branch gets first woman colonel

Breaking barriers: another Army branch gets first woman colonel

Colonel Leena Gaurav of the Army’s Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) branch has become the first woman officer to attain the Colonel rank in a branch of service other than the Army Medical Corps. On November 3, she put on the badges of her new rank — with the coveted ‘red tabs’ on her collars — paving the way to higher ranks for women officers in other branches of the Army.

While women officers have risen to high ranks in the Army Medical Corps, including to that of Lt General, they were unable to rise above Lt Colonel in other branches of the force as these were not open to permanent commission for them. After the government decided to the offer permanent commission to women officers in the JAG branch (Army’s legal branch) and the Army Education Corps, Colonel Leena is the first to reach this rank.

Born and brought up in Mumbai, Colonel Leena did her LLB and LLM before getting commissioned in the JAG Branch from the Officers Training Academy, Chennai, in 1996. After her promotion to her present rank, she has been posted as the Chief Legal Officer in the Directorate General of Assam Rifles in Shillong.

To get to this point in her career, however, Col Leena has had to fight a tough legal battle. Though the government had opened up permanent commission for women in 2008, she benefited only in 2012 and that too after the Supreme Court took a dim view of the government’s “delaying” tactics.

Rekha Palli, the advocate who fought on Col Leena’s behalf, told The Indian Express, “I’m happy that Leena has become the first Colonel as it has been a tough fight for her.”

In 1992, a landmark decision was taken to induct women officers into the Army through the Short Service Commission. Women officers get commissioned in the Army in a variety of non-combat branches.