The Delhi High Court today dismissed a batch of pleas challenging the Centre's Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces, saying it was made in national interest and to ensure that the armed forces are better equipped.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said there was no reason to interfere with the scheme. The court had reserved its verdict on the batch of pleas on December 15 last year.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had transferred a batch of petitions challenging and seeking direction regarding the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme to the Delhi High Court. The Court has also directed that all the matters that have been filed in the different High Courts of the country may also be transferred to the Delhi High Court. A batch of petitions was filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Agnipath Scheme of the Central Government and raising various concerns about the radical recruitment plan of the Armed Forces under the scheme. The announcement of the scheme led to nationwide violent protests due to the short-term tenure of the Agniveers and the future uncertainties after the tenure was over.

On August 25, 2022, the Delhi High Court refused to stay the Agnipath Scheme for recruitment in the armed forces and asked the central government to file its reply on a batch of petitions challenging the scheme. The Court had asked the Centre to file a consolidated reply on petitions challenging the scheme and separate replies on those pleas which have challenged the recruitment processes in accordance with the previous advertisements in the Army, Navy, and Air Force before the introduction of the Agnipath Scheme.

Defending its Agnipath scheme, the Centre had said a large amount of study has gone into this policy and it was not a decision which was taken lightly and the Union of India was mindful and cognisant of the situation. Earlier, the bench had asked the petitioners who have challenged the Centre's short-term military recruitment scheme Agnipath as to which of their rights have been violated and said it was voluntary and those having any problem should not join the armed forces under it.

The Centre had earlier filed its consolidated reply to several petitions against the Agnipath scheme as well as those concerning the recruitment processes for the armed forces under certain previous advertisements and has said there was no legal infirmity in it. The government submitted that the Agnipath scheme was introduced in the exercise of its sovereign function to make national security and defence more "robust, "impenetrable" and "abreast with changing military requirements". One of the petitions before the high court had sought a direction to the armed forces to resume the recruitment process which has been cancelled due to the introduction of the Agnipath scheme and prepare the final merit list after conducting a written examination within a stipulated time.

The Agnipath scheme, unveiled on June 14, 2022, lays out rules for the recruitment of youths in the armed forces. According to these rules, those between 17-and-a-half and 21 years of age are eligible to apply and they would be inducted for a four-year tenure. The scheme allows 25 percent of them to be granted regular service subsequently.

After the scheme was unveiled, protests erupted in several states against the scheme. Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.

With PTI Inputs