The Delhi High Court on Monday 12 Dec,said that the experts have formulated the Agnipath scheme for joining the Indian armed forces and that the court is not an expert body which can pass judgment on such a scheme.
“What is wrong with the plan?
It is not compulsory….To be honest, we are not military experts. You [the petitioners] and I are not experts. It was prepared after great efforts by experts from the Army, Navy and Indian Air Force,” the court told the petitioners, including aspirants who challenged the scheme.
“There is a certain policy laid down by the government. It is not compulsory but voluntary… There is no compulsion. If you are good, you will be taken on after that [after 4 years]. Is it us who can decide whether it should be four years, five years or seven years,” the court observed.
A brief look at the Agnipath scheme
Agnipath scheme is a central government scheme launched in 2022. Under the scheme, Indian youth can join the Indian Army for four years and will be able to serve the country. This is a pan-India scheme so any Indian youth can apply for this job and join the Indian Army.
According to the scheme, those candidates between 17 ½ and 23 years are eligible to apply.The Agnipath Programme in the Indian Armed Forces is a programme in which selected candidates are enrolled as Agniveers for a period of four years.
At the end of the four years, the Agniveers will be available to the society as disciplined, dynamically agile and skilled manpower to pursue their career in other sectors in a profession of their choice.
Depending on organizational requirements and policies promulgated by the Armed Forces, Agniveers will be offered the opportunity to apply to join the permanent cadre upon completion of their deployment. Of these, up to 25% of Agniveers will be selected to join the Armed Forces as a regular cadre.
The programme offers young Indians who want to serve their country the opportunity to join the armed forces for a short period of time.
The Centre has claimed that the aim of the programme is to have a mix of young recruits aged 18 to 25 years as ‘Agniveers’, supervised by experienced regular cadre members aged 26 to 52 years and working under commanding officers aged 37 to 40 years.
The programme raises the profile of youth in the armed forces.
The petitioners’ arguments
During the hearing, advocate Kumud Lata Das, representing one of the petitioners, Harsh Ajay Singh, noted that the agniveers will have a life insurance of Rs 48 lakh after their recruitment under the programme, which is much less than the existing insurance.
The facilities to which the army personnel are entitled, the agniveers will get only a fraction of that in four years, the lawyer argued, besides they would be entitled to a gratuity if their service period is extended to five years.
Since only 25 percent of the candidates will remain in the armed forces, the future of the remaining 75 percent is uncertain, the lawyer said.
One of the petitioners said the scheme needs to be reconsidered as the developers of the scheme have not taken into account the suggestions of the people who will be affected by the scheme. “Whenever a scheme is introduced, important feedback is required from the people to whom the scheme is applicable,” he said. He further argued that the training period for recruits under the scheme – six months – is very short, as during this period, the recruits or agniveers will not only have to learn specialisation in handling weapons, but also undergo training that requires physical stamina. “…Six months is a very short time. We cannot jeopardise national security in this way…”, he argued.
The petitioner also argues that the duration of four years is not enough for the recruits to “bond” with their “unit”. “You move with the unit, you fight with your brothers… how is the sense of belonging to develop in such a short time?” the petition states.
It was also argued that recruits under the Agnipath programme need not fear leaving the army as they are only given a four-year contract anyway. The next meeting will be held on 14 December at 2:15 pm.
On the question of whether the four years of service that agniveers do will count towards their total service if a quarter of them are inducted into the armed forces, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, said she will get detailed instructions on this aspect.