The Supreme Court on Monday said that it would hear next week’s pleas challenging the Centre’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme for recruitment in the armed forces. A vacation bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari said that petitions will be listed next week before an appropriate bench upon reopening of the apex court after summer vacation. A counsel, who filed a plea against the scheme, said Indian Air Force aspirants have undergone training and were waiting for appointment letters but now their career will be cut short from 20 years to four years. “This is an urgent matter, kindly list it. The careers of several aspirants are at stake”, the council said. Advocate ML Sharma, who has also filed a PIL challenging the scheme, said he seeks cancellation of the government’s notification pertaining to the scheme as more than 70,000 aspirants who have undergone training were waiting for their appointment letters before the pandemic and how their career has been shortened by the scheme. The bench said that when you (Sharma) have waited for more than two years then why you are coming before the vacation bench. It listed Sharma’s plea before the appropriate bench along with other matters.
In the PIL, Sharma has alleged that the government has quashed the century-old selection process for the Armed forces which is contrary to the constitutional provisions.
The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths between the age of 17-and-a-half and 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 percent 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.
The plea also referred to protests all over the country against the scheme.
Earlier, several petitions have been filed in the top court seeking a direction to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the damage to public properties, including Railways, during violent protests against the scheme.
The plea has also sought directions from the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Haryana, and Rajasthan governments to submit a status report on the violent protests.
It has sought a direction to set up an expert committee under the chairmanship of a retired apex court judge to examine the scheme and its impact on national security and the Army.