The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Centre to explain the policy prohibiting married law graduates from being considered for the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Department, the legal arm of the Indian Army.
The Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, while dealing with the plea that challenges the prohibition on basis of marital status, orally remarked that there exists no correlation between marriage and training of candidates shortlisted for grant of Short Service Commission in the Indian Army for the department of JAG.
During the course of hearing, Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma informed the bench that in the Indian Army, the policy is to recruit unmarried men and women and that a person joining the department of JAG is also required to undergo the same rigours as in the infantry.
At this juncture, Justice Prasad orally remarked: “Marriage and training can have no correlation with each other…..It does not make any sense”; and added, “If a person is married and he goes for training, how is that marital status in any way going to affect his training.” The government was granted four weeks’ time to file an affidavit in respect of the policy in issue and slated the matter for March 22, 2023.
The instant petition was filed by Advocate Charuwali Khanna on behalf of practising Advocate and activist Kush Kalra challenging the “institutionalized discrimination” in restricting married individuals from being considered for JAG. JAG officers are legal and judicial chief of the Army and provide legal help in matters related to military, martial and international law.
Kalra, in the petition, has questioned the basis for the alleged restriction, when marital status is not an eligibility criteria for “equally ranked” Judiciary and Indian Civil Services posts. While asserting that the policy curtails the civilian’s right to marry after attaining the legal age, the plea prayed for declaring as void the Special Army Instructions of 1992 and 2017 which disentitled married men and married women from seeking employment in the JAG Department of the Indian Army. An earlier petition filed by Kalra in 2016 challenged the ineligibility of married female candidates to apply for JAG, while there was no such restriction on married male candidates, on the ground that the same is discriminatory to female candidates.
During the pendency of that petition, however, a fresh corrigendum was issued by the Government in 2017, wherein married men were also barred from seeking employment in the JAG Department. The petition was thereafter withdrawn with the liberty to raise the challenge afresh.