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.
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