HC to hear pleas challenging Agnipath on July 20; SKM to hold panchayat on the scheme

Protests have erupted in several states against the scheme. Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.

Published: 12th July 2022 09:11 PM  |   Last Updated: 12th July 2022 09:11 PM   |  A+A-

Protest against the Central government’s Agnipath Scheme turns violent as protestors set train bogies on fire at Secunderabad Railway Station. (Photo | Vinay Madapu/EPS)


NEW DELHI: Defence forces are the organisations that adopt the most transparent recruitment process, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday orally observed while fixing July 20 to hear several pleas challenging the Centre's Agnipath Scheme.

The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths in the defence forces between the age of 17-and-a-half and 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years.

Protests have erupted in several states against the scheme.

Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.

On Tuesday, the high court was hearing an 'early hearing application' filed in a pending petition which challenges the Indian Navy's employment advertisement reserving its right for shortlisting applicants by increasing the cut-off marks obtained by them in class 12th examination, claiming that it was contrary to the already laid down eligibility criteria in the advertisement after their applications were received for recruitment as Person Below Officer Rank (PBOR) in the force.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad was informed by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that similar matters challenging the Agnipath scheme are already pending before the high court and that they be heard together.

Mehta said the issues in these petitions are interconnected with Agnipath Scheme and if the court permits, they can be heard together.

"Solicitor General has informed the court that there are some other issues touching the subject matter of the present petition. The office is directed to list them (other petitions) along with the present petition on July 20," the bench said. At the end of the hearing, the chief justice orally observed, "that's the organisation where the most transparent process is adopted. Don't point fingers at them. This is very unfortunate"

Initially, the court asked how a PIL was maintainable in a service matter.

The petitioner, through advocate Ankur Chhibber, sought quashing of the advertisement issued by the authorities in the employment news in October last year, to the extent whereby the Indian Navy has reserved its right for shortlisting the applicants even before the written examination and taking away the chance of eligible citizens to even participate in the selection process.

The petition also sought to direct the authorities to consider all candidates, who are fulfilling the eligibility criteria laid down in the advertisement, to take part in the selection process by issuing admit cards to them for the post they have applied for.

The early hearing application said the matter came up before the court on January 11, 2022, when the notice was issued to the authorities.

However, during the pendency of the petition, the earlier process had already completed, so on February 2, the court granted liberty to the petitioner to move an application if a fresh advertisement is issued by the Indian Navy adopting the same shortlisting criteria.

“To the utter shock and surprise, the Indian Navy, defying the aforesaid directions passed by this court, yet again issued a fresh advertisement in July 2022, embracing the same criteria as was challenged in the present PIL, despite the same being contrary to their affidavit filed in… before this court whereby the Indian Navy had categorically agreed to do away with the criteria so adopted,” the application said.

A petition seeking to complete the recruitment process in the Indian Air Force as per a 2019 notification without being affected by the Centre's Agnipath Scheme is also pending in the high court and is now scheduled to come up for hearing on July 20.

The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) on Tuesday said it will hold a panchayat on August 22 to protest against the government over the issues of MSP, Agnipath scheme and Lakhimpur violence.

A meeting of the SKM, which had spearheaded the agitation against the now-scrapped farm laws, was held here and it was decided that the farmers' collective will not allow any political outfit to associate with it and will remain completely apolitical.

The SKM claimed that some people had written to the Centre over the MSP issue last year in September without taking the other SKM members into confidence.

In the letter, some members, wrote that the government should repeal The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, and should make The Farmers (Empowerment and protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, a model act, left to the discretion of state governments.

While the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020 be stayed.

"After this came out, we decided to have no relation with them. They tried to sell out the movement. Today, the whole SKM is here. We have never allowed political parties or leaders to be associated with us and that will continue. We call upon non-political farmer organisations to join us and take the movement ahead," an SKM leader told reporters here.

The SKM also demanded that all the cases filed against farmers be withdrawn.

It reiterated that the farmer leaders who contested the Punjab elections earlier this year, are not a part of the umbrella body.

During the meeting on Tuesday, it was also decided that a panchayat will be held at the Jantar Mantar here on August 22 over the issues of MSP, Agnipath scheme and Lakhimpur violence, he said.

The next meeting of SKM will be held on August 23.

The SKM decided that it will continue to agitate over the issue of the legal guarantee for minimum support price (MSP).

The farmers' body is also demanding that India quit the WTO.

A WTO panel, on December 14, 2021, recommended India withdraw its allegedly prohibited subsidies under production assistance, buffer stock, and marketing and transportation schemes within 120 days from the adoption of the report.

Eight people, including four farmers, were killed in Lakhimpur Kheri during a violence that erupted on October 3 last year when farmers were protesting against Uttar Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Keshav Prasad Maurya's visit to the area.


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