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Delhi High Court seeks Centre’s reply on pleas challenging Agnipath scheme

Last month, the Supreme Court had made the Delhi High Court the core forum to examine the question of the legality of the Agnipath recruitment scheme to the armed forces

August 25, 2022 12:03 pm | Updated 12:20 pm IST - New Delhi

Students from various Left organisations display placards during a protest against the Centre’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. File

Students from various Left organisations display placards during a protest against the Centre’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Delhi High Court on August 24 refused to stay the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces while hearing a bunch of petitions challenging the scheme.

A Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad asked the Centre to give a consolidated reply on petitions and posted the case for further hearing on October 19.

Also read: Explained | The Agnipath scheme for armed forces

Last month, the Supreme Court had made the Delhi High Court the core forum to examine the question of the legality of the Agnipath recruitment scheme to the armed forces noting that multiple litigation on the Agnipath scheme is “neither desirable nor proper”.

The top court had noted that petitions, either challenging Agnipath or seeking directions to the Centre and the armed forces to complete recruitment process started before the scheme, were pending in various High Courts.

Other than in Delhi High Court, petitions on Agnipath are pending in the High Courts of Kerala, Patna, Punjab and Haryana, Uttarakhand and even in the Armed Forces Tribunal at Kochi.

The apex court had said the other High Courts could either transfer their cases, with the permission of the petitioners, to Delhi or keep those petitions pending there and allow the petitioners to intervene in the proceedings in Delhi. The same course of action could be taken by High Courts in case petitions challenging Agnipath are filed in the future.

The High Court is seized of multiple petitions to direct the armed forces to resume the recruitment process cancelled due to the introduction of the Agnipath scheme. In one of these petitions, over 20 candidates short-listed for position of ‘Airmen’, following a 2020 recruitment process initiated by the Indian Air Force (IAF), have urged the government to publish the enrolment list.

Another petition was filed by a candidate Rahul who had applied for Soldier General Duty in Army Recruitment Rally at Sirsa in 2020. The plea stated that the Army after conducting the physical and medical examination in 2021 postponed the recruitment process due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the same kept postponed from time to time.

Rahul in his plea, filed through advocate Vijay Ahlawat, said that after the announcement of the Agnipath Scheme for Armed Forces Recruitment, the Centre has stopped and cancelled all pending processes including the Common Entrance Examination (CEE) of Indian Army Recruitment for the previous recruiting years.

In the apex court, advocate M.L. Sharma had challenged the Agnipath scheme on the ground that the scheme would cause “serious injury” to citizens, the institution of the armed forces and the country as a whole.

Mr. Sharma had contended that the armed forces cannot discriminate with a policy which drops 75% of those inducted after a period of four years’ service without even pension.

Another petition before the apex court filed by advocate Harsh Ajay Singh argued that a mere four-year tenure would not equip young men and women, personally and professionally, to face a competitive world outside the armed forces.

Other petitions complained about how the ongoing recruitment process to the armed forces was derailed with the declaration of the Agnipath scheme. In some cases, candidates had successfully completed their tests and were waiting for their appointment letters before Agnipath hit them.

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