The authorities in the recent times have been claiming that the MNS is an auxiliary force part of the armed forces, disregarding the legal status of the MNS as a corps of the regular Army. The Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 do not apply to the women officers serving in the MNS. The Ordinance applied only to the IMNS which ceased to exist in the Army 65 years back; however the Ordinance continues to be in force until repealed. The Government of India through Army Instruction 274/50 set the terms and conditions of service for regular commissions for officers in the MNS, and made all existing members of the IMNS part of the then newly formed MNS. The Indian Army Act, 1911 to which the IMNS was subjected by virtue of the Ordinance, stood repealed on the  commencement of the Army Act, 1950 (22nd July 1950). The MNS is under the Army Act, 1950 and the rules made thereunder from the commencement of the Act. The women officers serving in the MNS are officers of the regular Army. However the name of the auxiliary force which was constituted by the Ordinance (though not existing today) continues to be IMNS. It is an irrefutable fact that the IMNS and MNS are two different legal entities.     

Earlier the Honourable Supreme Court of India was also misled in the case of Jasbir Kaur & Others Vs Union of India & Others [Uniform Case - transfer case (civil) 38 of 2002 order dated 13/11/2003]; and the Court observed that the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 is still in force and the members of the IMNS are governed by it (true statement). But the Court was misled to believe that the IMNS and the MNS are the same. Unfortunately, the existence of the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 in the statute books is being used by the authorities to misled Courts in the adjudication of disputes regarding the terms and conditions of service of the women officers in the MNS. 

The vested interests are trying to take advantage of the Government’s initiative to repeal the obsolete laws, ‘to recreate an auxiliary force like the IMNS which existed 65 years back’. They have partly won by suppression of facts from the Law Commission of India; and made them to recommend ‘a change in the existing law pertaining to IMNS’ on the repeal of the Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943. Accordingly, the case for deletion/amendment to the Paras of the Regulations for the Army, 1987 (Para 32, 58, 65, 66, 67, 75, 76, 77, 81, 105, 109, 255, 341, 618, 619, 621, 733 and 1394) where the women officers in the MNS finds mention as officers of the regular Army is under process. They are also hotly pursuing a case for the amendment of Rule 16A of the Army Rules, 1954. The other cases which are in process, are cancellation of Army Orders 353/73, 11/82 etc; and also making separate Regulations for the MNS, after detaching it from the regular Army. They have almost completed rewriting the entire military law governing the MNS, and ready to reconstitute it as an auxiliary force like the erstwhile IMNS. 

Some of the committees they have set in the past are Lt Gen MG Girish Committee, Maj Gen MKV Panicker Committee, and Brig JS Yadav Committee etc. Another such Committee set up to re-designate the ranks of the women officers in the MNS to sister, matron etc. and remove their army officer insignias and segregating their family accommodations from the officers pool etc. is trying to obtain the consent of some senior functionary in the MNS. All these Committees, set up with the devious aim to make the MNS an auxiliary force, is in no way representing the aspirations of the 4000 plus women officers serving in the MNS. But their personal vendettas will only serve the enemy nations, by directly undermining the operational preparedness of our armed forces.

If the Army exists for war, then casualties are bound to happen. Therefore no Army in the world can exist without an effective mechanism to manage the mass causalities; the Indian Army cannot be an exception. If the Government wants to maintain the excellent standards of nursing care provided by the MNS, then it has to step in now; to save the MNS from virtual destruction in the hands of the vested interests. Otherwise the reconstitution of the MNS as an auxiliary force in the garb of IMNS will soon be a reality. 


The officers in the Army Medical Corps, Army Dental Corps and Military Nursing Service are selected for training based on a departmentally conducted test and interview in accordance with Para 109 of regulations for the Army, 1987. The Doctors, Dentists and Nurses do not undergo any Services Selection Board (SSB) interview for Commissioning in the Army. They are selected based on their professional qualifications, not for their officers like qualities (OLQs). Hence no Doctor, Dentist or Nurse in the Army can ever make any claims regarding their OLQs. A similar system is in vogue in every Country. Further according to Geneva Conventions they are treated as non-combatants during war. 

The Boards for Commissioning of Medical, Dental and Nursing Officers are conducted under the authority of Para 109 regulations. The Para 109 speaks about the Constitution and Duties of Selection Boards (Medical).—The DGAFMS is responsible for convening Promotion, Appointment and Regular Commission Boards, as given in the sub rules. The Boards For Commissioning is constituted as per sub-rule (e), which reads as ‘Selection Board No. 5.—For selection .of candidates for grant of Short Service and Permanent Commission in the AMC and Permanent Com­mission in the AMC (Non-Technical)/AD Corps and MNS. The Board of Commissioning consists of DGAFMS, AG, DGMSs (Army/Navy/Air), DGHS and ADGMNS (for NOs) / DGDS (for DOs).

The Medical, Dental and Nursing officers are only given Basic Medical Officers Course (MOBC) or Initial Nursing Officers Course (INOC) of very short duration merely introducing them to the way of life in the Army. Even the women officers selected for branches outside medical services for non-combatant duties now have to undergo 11 months mandatory military training. Hence comparing the selection system of fighting arms officers with that of the AMC, ADC and MNS is incorrect. Regardless of the selection system and the training they have equal status with those officers who have undergone the Services Selection Board interview and full one year of Military Training. 

The Geneva Convention, 1949 (Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field), accorded the status of non-combatants to the Medical personnel. However the Article 22(1) of the Convention ‘grants the right to medical personnel (doctors, nurses, nursing orderlies etc.) to carry and use arms in their own defence, or in that of the wounded and sick in their charge’. Accordingly, the women officers serving in MNS were also given fire arms training. The Indian Army’s women shooters of repute even today are from the MNS, though some years back the fire arms training was stopped for the MNS officers.


The women officers serving in the MNS are required to work, in the male dominated world of the Army and the sister services. There are around 6000 Doctors in the Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS), against around 4000 Nurses. The Planning Commission (now NITI Aayog) recommended Doctor to Nurse Ratio as 1: 3; whereas in the Armed Forces, it is only 1: 0.67. The huge shortfall in the Nurses is partly made up by the extended duty hours of the women officers in the MNS. The Medical Services also employs around 23000 Nursing Assistant tradesmen of the Army Medical Corps in the patient care, under the direct supervision of officers of MNS to make up the shortfall.

The women officers of MNS are also routinely required to lead a team of male personnel consisting of ambulance assistants, nursing assistants, nursing technicians, emergency care and trauma technicians, housekeeping staff and civilian staff who are placed under them. She handles combatant male patients like Officers, Junior Commissioned Officers and other ranks from all services including Para Military forces in insurgency prone areas, in her day to day patient care. Some of the women officers of MNS perform instructional duties in the training centres for the male nursing assistants, teaching them the basic nursing skills. All these different roles, they have performed in the extremely hierarchical, rank, status and class conscious environment of the Army with the strength of their commissioned ranks.

Further once the outwardly symbols of Army Officers Ranks is removed from their shoulders, some of those women will be sitting ducks for sexual assaults. When her own safety, honour and dignity are under threat, the women serving in the MNS will be only fighting for her own day to day survival. The authorities in the past have been successful in suppressing the cases of atrocities committed against the women officers serving in the MNS. Hence not many cases came to light outside the Army and so many such cases are going unreported.

The Government over the years had made many positive changes in the conditions of service of women officers serving in other branches, like granting of permanent commission etc. However, those women who chose to serve in the MNS, have been discriminated clearly due to the prejudices or stigma attached to her job. The near mutiny happened in the Air Force in the wake of the 5th Pay Commission report in 1997 was another such incident born out of such discrimination.

But here the victims are hapless women, so no violent protests will ever happen. But her pride, dignity and honour will be dead, the moment the rank is removed from her shoulders. How far the Army will be able to push her to do her job in a two front war; which may breakout in the future over the Arunachal Pradesh in the East and the Kashmir in the West? But with her honour and pride intact she will be more than willing to fight alongside the men if the need be; like during the fall of the Singapore in the Second World War. The Government should not give in to the demands of these mischievous elements that are furthering the interests of our enemies by weakening the Medical Services.

Most of the countries after the Second World War have made changes to the Nursing Services of their Army by making the Nurses commissioned officers of the regular Army. They all have Army Officer Nurses for the same reason, that their soldiers can go to war with the firm belief that if they get injured these women will do everything in their powers to care them back to good health. For that, she has to have the necessary resources including personnel like ambulance assistants, nursing assistants, nursing technicians, emergency care and trauma technicians, housekeeping staff and civilian staff under her command. In the Army, only the commissioned officers rank vests that kind of authority on her. When so many countries including some of the smallest ones like Bhutan and Nepal also made their Nurses in the Army, the regularly commissioned officers of the Army, but we are trying to set the clock back. 

Our country routinely trains the Army Officer Nurses from Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal, etc. in the Nursing Colleges in the Army. One thing which is common from the Middle Eastern country like Yemen or a South East Asian country like Thailand or a Western country like USA is the existence of commissioned officer nurses in their Army. This includes our neighbours Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan and western countries like Australia, Canada, France, Germany, UK, USA etc. Some of them like USA and UK got separate branches for Army, Navy and Air Force. So many countries could not have gone wrong in their judgement by granting commissioned officer rank to the Nurses in their Armies; but why our authorities are blinded to such facts?


The Nursing Services in the Indian Army finds its origins from the Army Nursing Service established in the year 1888. Over the 127 years of its existence the Nursing Services had gone through many changes. One such marked change occurred during the Second World War in 1943, when the Indian Military Nursing Service (IMNS) was constituted by the Indian Military Nursing Ordinance, 1943 from the existing Nursing Services of the Indian Army. The other major change occurred in the 1950s, after the Country became a republic; when the IMNS was named to Military Nursing Service (MNS) and made a part of the regular Army.

The Nursing Services of the Army has many firsts to its claim: This was the only element of the Indian Army in which women were allowed to join till 1956. The first women commissioned officer to reach every rank till the Major General was from the MNS. The first ever Indian Woman to win a medal in an International Shooting event was by an officer of the MNS in the Common Wealth Games 2006. The only face of the Indian Army women in every UN Missions or mercy missions abroad till the recent times was from the MNS. All these were not without sacrifices; the only women of the Indian Army ever died in any battle field were from the Nursing Services. According to the historical records around 350 Indian Army Nurses either died or taken prisoner or missing in action during the World Wars. On a single day on 14 February 1942, fifteen IMNS Nurses died in the sinking of ‘SS Kuala’ by the Japanese dive bombers of the Coast of Pom Pong Island. They are the only women of the Indian Army who ever served in any combat zone.

The women officers serving in the MNS are the most combat exposed women in Indian Army. They have served through two World Wars and also were in the fringes of the battle fields in the five major bloody wars we have fought after independence. The MNS officers are still caring for the sick and wounded soldiers in the terrorist torn North and North East to the field area bunkers just a stone’s throw away from the international borders. The MNS officers, over the years, served with our combat forces in UN Missions at Korea, Gaza, Vietnam, Somalia, Rwanda, Angola, Ethiopia, Sudan, Lebanon, Cambodia, and Sierra Leone etc. and with IPKF in Sri Lanka, also in war ravaged Afghanistan, earth quake struck Nepal etc.

The IMNS on the commencement of the Army Act, 1950 was named to MNS, and made part of the regular Army. Their ranks were redesignated in conformity with the status of the officers of the regular Army. The women officers serving in the MNS are subject only to the Army Act, 1950 and the Rules made thereunder. The Indian Military Nursing Service Ordinance, 1943 does not apply to the officers in the MNS, as the 'IMNS' and 'MNS' are two separate legal entities. The IMNS cease to exist in the Army from the commencement of the Army Act, 1950; though the Ordinance is still in force by virtue of being a permanent Ordinance. As the members of the 'IMNS' were made part of a separate legal entity forming part of the regular Army named the ‘MNS’ from the commencement of the Army Act, 1950.

The women were gradually admitted in other arms and services, starting with the medical branch. Since 1991 women were inducted in branches other than the Medical Services in the commissioned officer ranks. However with the awareness about the women serving in the armed forces of other countries, and also the changes in socio-economic conditions after 1943, the Government of India no longer felt the need to modify the provisions of the Army Act, 1950, for application to the women officers.


Every Officer of the Nursing Services shall always bear in mind that the authority of Commissioned Rank brings in added responsibility on your shoulders. An officer shall be a lady in personal affairs, moral standards, conduct, manners and appearance. An officer must also demonstrate an unflinching commitment and enthusiasm for the honour and glory of the armed forces medical services and the Army.
You as a Commissioned Officer derive authority directly from the President of India and, as such, hold a commission charging you with the duties and responsibilities of Nursing Care in armed forces medical facilities. You are mandated to live by a set of expectations. First and foremost, you must set the example of the highest ethical and professional standards. Your endeavor shall be to provide the best of the care and facilities to every Patient under your charge irrespective their military rank. You must mentor and develop your subordinates skills and knowledge and foster a healthy relationship between the ranks.

You shall never allow the rank and seniority to come between your professional duties and responsibilities. You shall maintain a healthy professional relationship with other healthcare professionals (doctors/dentists). Always willing to travel that extra mile to make the junior doctors comfortable in your presence, and respect them for their professional ability and knowledge. You must understand that both (doctor and nurse) have a mutually full filling role, neither works under, but works besides each other. Both cannot perform each other’s job, even if one wants to (nurse - licensed under INC Act, 1947 and doctor - under IMC Act, 1956). There is no command and control aspect in such professional relationships. No matter what the seniority of the nurse, decisions regarding patient care are finally taken by the doctor (in consultation with the nurse, who often provides valuable inputs - after all she spends more time with the patient and the patient's family). The doctor is ultimately answerable regarding medical decisions.

The officers shall ensure that their relationship with the men in ranks be scrupulously devoid of familiarity, and is based on a firm and friendly foundation that is mature enough to ward off intimacy and informality. Respect the JCOs and NCOs for their age, experience and service. Recognise and appreciate a good jawan and remember that his welfare is your concern. Social calls between officers and PBORs are strictly not made. The avoidance of social liaison between officers and men is a custom observed in the best interest of good discipline, command and authority. Those officers who have relatives in the ranks must encourage them to avoid familiarity and refrain from going out with them socially in service environments. The officers' relatives must be tactfully explained the customs of service without unduly hurting their feelings. Every young women officer shall be careful while selecting her life partner. Always remember that the officers’ community makes class distinctions. Marrying within the armed forces is encouraged, but it is very unforgiving to those who find match below the commissioned officer ranks. The one who have fallen in ‘love trap’ is sure to face lifelong social ostracism in the officers’ society.

Every women officer must be vigilant about sexual harassments in armed forces. The sexual harassment has been recognised as the most intimidating and most violating form of violence against women. Any action or gesture, which directly or by implication aims at or has the tendency to outrage the modesty of women, falls under its general definition. The Supreme Court of India defined sexual harassment at workplace, according to the Court, sexual harassment is any unwelcome sexually determined behaviour, such as:- Physical contact, A demand or request for sexual favours, Sexually coloured remarks, Showing pornography, Any other physical or verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature. It is the moral responsibility of every women officer to stand up against sexual harassments against herself or any other female employee. When faced with sexual harassment, report immediately in writing to the Commanding Officer. Always provide witness in any such case happened in your presence or knowledge. The armed forces takes very serious view of sexual harassments, and as an officer, it is your duty to bring the sexual offenders to book.

The Officers attention is drawn to Army Act, 1950, Section 27. “Remedy of aggrieved officers.–Any officer who deems himself wronged by his commanding officer or any superior officer and who on due application made to his commanding officer does not receive the redress to which he considers himself entitled, may complain to the Central Government in such manner as may from time to time be specified by the proper authority” . This is a statutory right and nobody can stop you from exercising it.


Maj Gen Melissa A Rank, Asst Air Force Surg Gen Medical Force Development, and Asst Air Force Surg Gen Nursing Services USAF