A bench of Chief Justices Satish Chandra Sharma and Subramonium Prasad said it would hear the present petition along with several pleas challenging Agnipath.

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The Delhi High Court announced on Tuesday that it would hear a case on Wednesday asking for a directive to the armed forces to resume the recruitment process that had been suspended due to the Agnipath scheme’s implementation and to create the final merit list following a written exam within a set period of time. The Agnipath programme, which was unveiled on June 14, calls for the retention of 25% of young people recruited into the defence forces between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 for an additional 15 years. Against the plan, demonstrations have started in a number of states. Later, the government raised the maximum age to 23 for hiring in 2022.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said on Tuesday that it will consider the current petition as well as a number of arguments opposing the Agnipath plan. Rahul, the petitioner, in this case, claimed that in addition to the soldier general duty position for which he had applied, candidates had also applied for positions as soldier technical, soldier technical (aviation/ammunition examiner), soldier technical nursing assistant/nursing assistant veterinary, soldier clerk/store keeper technical/inventory management, and soldier trade man in the Indian Army. According to him, the government published multiple advertisements through more than 28 centres across the nation, including one through the Army recruitment centre in Hisar, which ran from July 30 to August 8, 2020.

The Common Entrance Examination (CEE), which was supposed to take place on July 25, 2021, but was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, was the written exam the petitioner was waiting to take. “Shockingly, in the month of June 2022, the petitioner learned that the respondent no. 1 (Union of India through the Ministry of Defense) had implemented a new recruitment scheme to join the Indian Defence Services under the Agnipath Scheme, wherein the candidates will join forces for four years initially and only 25% will be absorbed into the permanent commission of the Indian Army after four years,” the plea said.

It was further stated that the petitioner discovered on the government’s official website that as a result of the Agnipath Scheme’s implementation for armed forces recruitment, the ministry had halted and cancelled all ongoing processes, including the CEE of Indian Army recruitment for the prior recruiting years. It added that the non-selection of the candidates for appointment to various posts in the Indian defence services by the authorities pursuant to Scheme notification is “illegal, arbitrary, improper, and discriminatory.” As a result, the candidates, including the petitioner, were asked to submit new applications under the Agnipath scheme.

The request asked for a directive to the authorities to conduct written examinations, or CEEs, at all pending centres, including the Army recruitment centre in Hisar, and to begin all recruitment processes that had been stopped owing to the introduction of the plan. After that, create a merit list and award a permanent commission to the chosen applicants in accordance with the advertised scheme, all before the Agnipath scheme is introduced across the nation within a given time frame. A case in the high court that seeks to finish the Indian Air Force recruitment process according to a 2019 notification without being impacted by the programme is also pending and will now be heard on July 20.

Another argument relates to a request for an early hearing in a pending petition that challenges the Indian Navy’s employment advertisement and claims that it was against the already stated eligibility criteria in the advertisement after their applications were received for recruitment as Person Below Officer Rank (PBOR) in the force. The Indian Navy reserved its right to shortlist applicants by increasing the cut-off marks obtained by them in the class 12 examination.

Mayank Tewari

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