Delhi HC refuses to stay Agnipath Scheme, asks Centre to file reply on pleas

Delhi High Court Thursday refused to stay the Centre’s 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.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad granted four weeks to the Centre to file the response.

The court 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.

Counsel for one of the petitioners urged the court to stay the operation of the scheme till the petitions are decided.

The court, however, refused to stay the scheme saying that it was not passing any interim order and will hear the matter finally.

“We will not stay it. If you succeed you will get it,” the bench orally said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for some other petitioners, said the court may say that the appointment through the Agnipath Scheme will be subject to the outcome of the writ petitions.

To this, the bench said, “it is always there”.

The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths in the defence forces between the age of 17-and-a-half and 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. Protests had erupted in several states soon after the scheme was announced last month.

Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment under the scheme in 2022.