The Agnipath Scheme: Are Judges Expert To Decide Which One To Choose

The Agnipath Scheme

The Delhi high court on Monday observed that it does not have the expertise to evaluate the Agnipath scheme, which was formed after high-level discussions with the army, air force and navy with the aim of creating a younger, revamped military.

The high court pointed out that the Agnipath scheme was formed by subject experts from the three services, and that judges were not military experts who could weigh in on the merits of the scheme.

“The government is saying that we want a young army and therefore the experts have formed the scheme. We (judges) are not experts… Are we to decide which is good? Four years or seven years? It is not in our domain,” a bench of chief justice Satish Chandra Sharma and justice Subramonium Prasad said while hearing a bunch of pleas challenging the Centre’s Agnipath scheme.

Seeking to know what rights the scheme has violated, the court said that it was a voluntary programme, and said that those having who have problems with it should simply not join the armed forces under it.

“What is wrong in the scheme? It is not compulsory .To be frank, we are not military experts. You (petitioners) and me are not experts. It has been framed after great efforts by experts in the army, navy and air force…There is a particular policy that the government has framed. It is not compulsory, it is voluntary,” the bench said.

Asking whether the court was the right forum to decide the validity of a policy decision, the bench said, “You have to show us that a right is taken away. There is no compulsion. Don’t join then. If you are good you will be absorbed thereafter (after four years).”

The Agnipath scheme, unveiled on June 14, lays out rules for recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces. According to these rules, those between 17.5 and 21 years of age are eligible to apply, and will be inducted for a four-year tenure. The scheme allows 25% of them to be granted regular service subsequently, and the rest 75% to be released with a one-time lumpsum payment.

One of the petitioners, Colonel Amit Kumar (retd), who was arguing in person, said he has retired from the Indian Army and is now practicing as a lawyer. He said the authorities should be asked to reconsider the Agnipath scheme as the six months of training to be imparted to the Agniveers is not enough. When justice Prasad said that if there is a problem, “don’t join”, the petitioner said, “Is it an answer milord, ‘don’t join’?” The judge replied: “Yes.”

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About the Author: Meera Verma