New Delhi. The Delhi High Court on Monday asked the petitioners challenging the Centre’s Agneepath scheme as to which right of theirs has been violated and said it is voluntary and those who have a problem with it should not join the armed forces.
The High Court said that the Agneepath scheme for recruitment has been prepared by experts from the Army, Navy and Air Force and the judges are not military experts. A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramaniam Prasad said, “What is wrong with the scheme?
It is not mandatory… To be frank, we are not military experts. You (petitioner) and I are not experts. It has been prepared after great efforts by experts from the Army, Navy and Air Force. “The government has made a special policy. It is not mandatory, it is voluntary.
The court said, “You have to prove that the right has been taken away…. Are we the person to decide whether it (service period under the scheme) should be made four years or five years or seven years.’ The high court is hearing petitions challenging the Centre’s Agneepath scheme.
The Agneepath scheme was launched on June 14 to recruit youth in the armed forces. As per the rules of the scheme, people in the age group of 17½ to 21 years are eligible to apply and will be inducted for a tenure of four years. Under the plan, 25 per cent of them will be regularised.
After the launch of Agneepath, protests against the plan started in several states. Later, the government increased the upper age limit to 23 years for the recruitment in 2022. During the hearing, advocate Kumud Lata Das, appearing for one of the petitioners, Harsh Ajay Singh, said that after getting recruited under the scheme, there would be a life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh for the Agniveers, which is much less than the earlier provision. .
The lawyer argued that whatever allowances the armed forces personnel are entitled to, Agniveer would get them only for four years. He said that if the period of service had been for five years, he would have been entitled to ‘gratuity’. The counsel argued that after four years of service, only 25 per cent of Agniveers would be considered for retention in the armed forces and there was no plan for the remaining 75 per cent.
The counsel said the authorities have prepared this plan to cut costs, the bench asked where the armed forces have mentioned that it is a cost-cutting exercise. Justice Prasad said, “Where has he said that it is a cost-cutting exercise? You want us to guess that this is a cost-cutting exercise? Unless they say so, your statement has no value.
Another petitioner, who took part in the arguments in person, submitted that he has retired from the Army and is now practicing law. He said that the authorities should be asked to reconsider the Agneepath scheme as the six months training given to Agniveers is not enough and it is too short a time and it is not easy to get trained.
He claimed that in this way officers would compromise national security and the quality of personnel would be affected. When Justice Prasad said “don’t get involved again”, the petitioner said, “is the answer ‘don’t get involved'”.
The judge said, ‘Yes.’ Advocate Ankur Chhibber, appearing for another petitioner, said that there would be no sense of bonding among the personnel in four years of service. The first four years of those who continue in service will not be counted and they will have to start afresh, he said.
The bench sought clarity from the Center on this. To which Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said that she would take instructions on this aspect and inform the bench on the next date of hearing on December 14.