Supreme Court transfers pleas challenging Agnipath scheme to Delhi High court

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The apex court observed that it will be “deprived of the considered opinion of the High Courts” if it transfers all the petitions before it

A Supreme Court bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Surya Kant and AS Bopanna today transferred the plea(s) challenging the Agnipath scheme and seeking continuation of recruitment for the forces to Delhi High Court. The court has observed that it would be appropriate if it gets a view of the High Court in this regard. 

The court has observed that pleas challenging validity of Agnipath scheme or directions to centre/armed forces to complete recruitment process was initiated earlier. It has been noted that Kerala, Delhi, Punjab and Haryana, Patna and Uttarakhand High Courts are hearing the matters and proceedings have been initiated before Armed Forces Tribunal, Kochi. It was observed that multiplicity of petitions on subject will not be desirable or proper.

Thus, the court observed that it will be deprived of the considered opinion of the High Courts if it transfers all the petitions before it. In view of the above, the court held that the three writ petitions instituted before it should be transferred to the Delhi High Court. The court directed that the petitions be renumbered as petitions under Article 226. The Registrar (Judicial) has been directed to process the same and communicate it to the Registrar of Delhi High Court. 

In cases where the matter is pending before High Courts other than Delhi, the apex court, has directed that the High Courts should either give an option to the petitioners to either have their petitions transferred to the Delhi HC or keep the pleas pending with liberty to the petitioners, to intervene in the pleas before the Delhi High Court. 

The court, was hearing a batch of petitions pertaining to the Agnipath scheme. The Indian military had formulated the PBOR (Personnel Below Officer Rank) recruitment strategy termed as ‘Agniveer’ on a ‘Tour of duty’ to protect our motherland — with the twin objective of a more youthful military and economizing pension pay-outs.

On June 14, 2022, the government announced that the recruitment of the Indian army would be under National Agnipath Scheme. As per the scheme, 46,000 youth in the 17.5 years to 21 years age group will get a four-year tenure including 6 months of training. At the end of four years, 75% of the Agniveers would be retired without pension or gratuity.

The plea by Harsh Ajay Singh, seeks a direction to the Union of India through its Ministries and Department of Military Affairs for reconsideration of the ‘Agnipath’ Scheme.

It also seeks a direction for the constitution of a committee for providing inputs to the Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence and also to invite the suggestions of the stakeholders of job aspirants of armed forces and of the retired Army officers for amendments to Agnipath Scheme for providing Job Opportunities to 75% Agniveers, post-retirement.

The plea by ML Sharma, challenges the 2022 Agnipath Scheme stating that the notification contrary to the constitution is a serious injury to the citizen of India including to the Indian army which cannot be repaired if not quashed.

It submits that the Government without having approval in the parliament and without any gazette notification quashed the century-old army selection process and imposed the “Agnipath Scheme” for the recruitment in all three armed forces divisions.

Advocates ML Sharma and Kusum Lata Das appeared for the petitioners while Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and ASGs  KM Natraj and Aishwarya Bhati appeared for the government authorities. 

Case title: Harsh Ajay Singh Vs Union of India, ML Sharma Vs Union of India & Ravindra Singh Shekhawat Vs Union of India