The Delhi High court has been informed by the Central government that Agniveer is a totally different cadre. It was further told that the service of Agniveers with Indian Army for four years will not be counted as regular service on joining the Indian Army, Navy or Air Force.
It was told that after the Agniveer joins the Army after completing his course, it would be counted as fresh recruitment.
The rationale given by the Centre is that under the Agniveer programme, only the basic training is given, whereas the joining as Sepoy in Army calls for undergoing a higher level of training.
“In fact, there will be no Sepoy who is not an Agniveer after about 10-15 years,” the government said.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aishwarya Bhati made the submission before the Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramoniun Prasad.
The Bench was hearing a batch of petitions challenging the newly-introduced Agnipath scheme for entry into the Armed forces.
The Agnipath scheme has proposed induction of then youth into the Indian Army for a period of four years. After this period, out of the selected candidates, only 25 per cent will continue in the Army.
The introduction of the scheme had prompted widespread protests across the country, some of which turned violent. It also led to a slew of petitions being filed in various courts.
The Court questioned the ASG about the issue of equal work equal pay, stating that when the responsibilities of Agniveer were that of the Sepoy, how is that he was paid less for it.
The ASG Bhati replied that the their responsibilities are not same and that the Agniveers will have to salute sepoys.
The bench, therefore, asked the ASG to put the same on an affidavit.
Justice Prasad questioned the government about its plans to take care of the rest 75 percent of youth, who will not be inducted into the forces after the course is completed.
The judge pointed out that these will be the people, who will be trained in arms and will become jobless after four years.
The ASG said that the Government plans to give some ex-Agniveer reservation to the rest 75 percent people who are not inducted into forces.
Not only this, Agniveers will also be provided adequate technical expertise and provisions have been made to grant 10th and 12th class degrees to them.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Advocate Ankur Chibber came to court for the petition where they represented the petitioners who could not get the recruitment in Army due to the Agnipath.
They argued that for over a year, the government kept telling them that their appointment letters were getting delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other administrative reasons.
Advocate Bhushan added that it was suddenly during a press conference that the scheme was announced.
The senior advocate said that many of the petitioners gave up the opportunity to get jobs in the Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and other paramilitary forces because they were given assurance that their recruitment letters from the army will come soon.
Prashant Bhushan said that they are not challenging the Agnipath scheme but it is completely arbitrary and unreasonable for them to stop the recruitment.
Bhushan and Chhibber also pointed out that even though the government stopped recruitment in their cases, it continued with rally recruitment at several other locations.
The advocates challenged argument by the government stating that the rally recruitment was done to maintain the demographic and geographical balance.
The ASG maintained that the recritment was not halted in anticipation of Agnipath and wherever those processes could be taken to finality, they were.
The bench, said that submission was too vague in the air
The Court, asked ASG Bhati to take instructions and listed the case for further hearing.
Earlier the Central government had filed a consolidated reply to the petitions, stating that Agnipath will make the Indian force young and recruits who exit after their tenure will prove to be nationalist, disciplined and skilled.
The Court will hear the matter again on Wednesday.