Agnipath Recruitment Scheme

The Supreme Court to hear petitions challenging the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme for the armed forces.

The Union Government unveiled the new ‘Agnipath’ recruiting strategy for the armed forces on June 14th, 2022. The programme aims to attract young individuals between the ages of 17 and 23 to serve in the military services for four years. The recruitment came to a halt during the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who have been recruited through the scheme are called ‘Agniveers’.

As per the Scheme, when the 4-year period concludes, 25% of the recruits will be selected for permanent enrollment. The rest will receive a one-time payment of ₹11.71 Lakh at the completion of the 4 year period. However, the fund from which this payment is made partially draws from the monthly salaries of the Agniveers. Further, the scheme includes life insurance of ₹48 Lakh during their service and an ex-gratia payment of ₹44 Lakhs to the families of those who died in service.

If implemented, the Agnipath scheme will be the sole route for recruitment into the armed forces. The scheme does not include pension benefits for the Agniveers. Many argue that the policy has been designed to cut rising pension costs.

Protests against the Agnipath scheme erupted across the country by armed forces aspirants in the days following its announcement on June 14th.Detractors have noted that the announcement of the scheme was surprising and blindsided the country.

Three separate Public Interest Litigation (PIL) suits have been filed in the Supreme Court. On June 18th 2022, advocate Vishal Tiwari submitted a PIL requesting the SC to constitute a judicial committee to examine the Agnipath scheme, along with a Special Investigation Team to enquire into the violence and destruction of property that accompanied the protests.

On June 21st 2022, a Vacation Bench comprising Justices C.T. Ravikumar and Sudhanshu Dhulia stated that the PILs filed by Mr. Tiwari and Mr. Singh would be placed before the Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana who will decide whether to list the case.

On July 19th 2022, a 3-Judge Bench comprising Justices D.Y. Chandrachud, Surya Kant and A.S. Bopanna transferred all pending petitions challenging Agnipath across High Courts to the Delhi High Court. The Bench stated that the Delhi HC would be able to swiftly decide the matter. Further they emphasised that the High Courts’ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution ‘must not lose significance’.

On February 27th, 2023 the Delhi High Court dismissed all the challenges to the Agnipath recruitment scheme, stating it served national interests and ensured the Armed Forces were better equipped.