Delhi High Court upholds validity of Agnipath Scheme

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the Agnipath scheme for entry into the Indian Armed Forces.

A bench of chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad also dismissed the pleas seeking resumption and enrolment as per the previous recruitment scheme in defence services. “This court does not find any reason to interfere with the scheme,” the court said.

The court had reserved its order on December 15 last year and asked the parties to file their written submissions by December 23, before the court broke for the winter vacation.

The Agnipath scheme, unveiled on June 14, lays out rules for the recruitment of youths in the armed forces. Those between 17-and-a-half and 21 years of age are eligible to apply and they would be inducted for a four-year tenure.

The scheme allows 25 per cent of them to be granted regular service subsequently. After the scheme was unveiled, protests erupted in several states against the scheme.

Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022. On July 19, 2022, the Supreme Court had transferred the petitions challenging the scheme to the Delhi high court.

The top court has also asked the high courts of Kerala, Punjab and Haryana, Patna, and Uttarakhand to transfer the PILs against the Agnipath Scheme pending before them to the Delhi high court or keep it pending till a decision is delivered if the petitioners before it so desire.

In August, a division bench of the high court declined to halt the Agnipath Scheme and granted them time to file its reply to a bunch of pleas challenging the defence recruitment scheme of the government. The court had said that it would finally hear the matter, instead of passing an interim order.

In October 2022, the Centre told the Delhi high court that recruitment in the army is an essential sovereign function carried out by the government keeping national security in mind.

Defending its scheme, the Centre had said that the structural changes in the army were necessitated in the context of the “sea change” in global military warfare, “to evolve a youthful, modern and futuristic fighting force” and to infuse young blood into the Army, who are mentally and physically fit.

The Union government had argued that Agnipath is a “tailor-made scheme” which has been formulated after comprehensive discussions by experts to serve the needs of our nation and changing warfare. Additional solicitor general (ASG) Aishwariya Bhati told the court that the policy is an evolution from our start as a part of the British Army.

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