The Delhi High Court on Wednesday questioned the Central government’s decision for different pay scale for Agniveers and regular sepoys (soldiers) in the Indian Army if their scope of work is the same.
Representing the Centre, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati said that Agniveer is a different cadre from the regular one.
In response, a division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said: “Different cadre does not answer job profile, the question is work and responsibility.”
“If the job profile is the same, then how do you justify different pay? A lot will depend on the job profile. Get instructions on this and put it on an affidavit,” the HC added.
Bhati said that terms, conditions, and responsibilities of Agniveers are different from that of soldiers.
“Agniveer cadre has been created as a separate cadre. It will not be counted as a regular service. After serving as an Agniveer for four years, if he or she volunteers and is found fit then his journey in the regular cadre begins,” she submitted.
The Centre said that this scheme was not hastily formulated, but with much study to enhance the morale of the youth and also skill mapping of Agniveers.
The ASG said that a lot has gone during the past two years into taking this decision like numerous internal and external consultations, several meetings and consultations have also been held with the stakeholders.
Bhati also argued that as Indian armed forces are the most professional armed forces in the world, they should be given much bigger leeway when they are taking such big policy decisions.
The bench will continue hearing the matter.
The HC on December 12 said that the Agnipath scheme was constructed by experts and that it is not the expert body to give judgment over such a scheme while hearing a batch of petitions challenging the newly formulated scheme for entry into the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force.
“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,” the bench had said.
With dozens of petitions being filed on the scheme, its introduction had led to people protesting countrywide.
There are three batches of petitions filed challenging the scheme, its recruitment process and appointment of candidates.
The scheme, meant to recruit youth into the Indian Army for four years, will only keep 25 per cent of the selected candidates after this period.
The petitioners claimed that the rest 75 per cent candidates will be left jobless after four years and there is no plan B for them.
“In six months, I have to develop physical endurance and learn to use these weapons. Six months is a very short time. We are going to compromise national security,” one of the petitioners who appeared had argued.
Arguments were also raised about whether the four-year term that Agniveers serve, will be counted in their overall service once a quarter of them are commissioned into the forces.
Appearing for the Centre, Bhati had said that she will get instructions on the same.