Seeking dismissal of the petitions challenging its Agnipath recruitment scheme, the Centre has informed Delhi High Court that defending India’s territory, which faces external and internal threats, requires an agile, youthful and technologically sound armed forces.

“The character of future wars/military engagement, in the opinion of military experts, is likely to be ambiguous, uncertain, short, swift, lethal, intense, precise, non-linear, unrestricted, unpredictable and hybrid. These challenges would be exacerbated by the inherent nature of terrain along our borders which ranges from the Rann swampy marshes, jungles, deserts, riverine, hills, high altitude, mountains and glaciated regions, as well as isolated island territories. Defending such territory from external and internal threats requires an agile, youthful and technologically adept Armed Forces,” the government told the court in a written reply.

The Centre has told the court that on analysis of the existing structure of the below ‘officer’ rank divisions of the armed forces, it was found that the average age of the Indian Armed Forces personnel was 32 years. This was in stark contrast with the global position of armies which showed that the average age of Armed Forces across the world was 26 years, according to the government.

“It was witnessed that this average was on a higher side due to the fact that recruit Jawan, sailor or airman who gets enrolled in the Armed Forces at approximately 17 ½ years of age was serving a minimum period ranging between 15 to 20 years [ depending on whether he is in Indian Army ( 17 years), Indian Navy (15 years) or Indian Air Force (20 Years)]. This retention policy for jawan, sailor or airman which ranged between 15 to 20 years was in a way a reason for increase in the average age of the armed forces,” the government has said.

The Centre has further said the Agnipath scheme has been initiated to have “have a blend of young jawans, sailors or airmen between the age of 18-25 years as Agniveers, supervised by experienced regular cadre personnel (below officer rank selected from experienced agniveers) having the age of 26 26 yrs. (Sepoy) to 52 yrs (Subedar), working under the Commanding Officers [CO’s] within the age bracket of 37 to 40 years.”

The Centre has also submitted that the men and women serving in the armed forces need to be physically fit, mentally alert and should possess high risk-taking abilities. Agnipath scheme was promulgated to re-structure the ‘intake & retention’ processes in the three Services, the government has said.

“With new military technologies emerging at a rapid pace, the time-tested conventional formations of the armed forces were losing their edge. This made structural changes in the overall organization of the Indian armed forces a matter of necessity,” the Centre has argued before the court.

The response has been filed in a batch of pleas challenging its Agnipath Scheme and seeking resumption and enrolment as per previous recruitment scheme in defense services.

“The Nation’s land and maritime borders face both traditional and nontraditional threats. Concurrently, our internal threats manifest in different dimensions including an on-going proxy war on the western front starting from the region of J&K. On the eastern front the organizations inimical to the nation’s interest TAR are ambushing insurgencies. The Left-Wing Extremism in addition needs a strict vigil as it keeps on resurrecting intermittently,” the affidavit reads.

The Centre has said further that the objective of the scheme is to have a young combat force which is physically and mentally capable of taking the new challenges anticipated by experts.

Based on detailed deliberations over an extended period of time with all stakeholders, the Centre said, a model comprising a well experienced permanent cadre with niche operational and technical skills “supported by a youthful and a well-equipped support cadre comprising dynamic rank and file” was envisaged.

“The process to alter the ‘intake & retention’ policy in the three forces has a genesis in various studies and deliberations which have been conducted in the past and have been ongoing since a very long time,” the government has told the court.

On the aspect of 4 years duration of Agniveer recruits service, the Centre has said that the said duration of training has been optimized to meet the organizational requirement.

tating that the training will incorporate modern training methods and use of technology and simulators, the Centre has said:

“Thereafter, the concept of on job training (OJT) on reaching units/ places of deployment will ensure continuity in training apart from field exercise and training camps at formation level. In order to optimally utilize the services of Agniveers and ensure availability for maximum duration, specialized training will be undertaken only after enrolment in the regular cadre.”

The government has also said that adequate incentive has been provided to existing personnel to fulfil their aspirations outside the Armed Forces as as part of the society. “Overall, it is envisaged that the system will also lead to physically fit, motivated, well- disciplined and skilled personnel being given back to the Indian society for their contribution in all walks of life,” the reply states.

Explaining the Agnipath scheme, the government has told the court that all recruitment into Armed Forces will be conducted only through Agnipath Scheme, utilising contemporary technology, practices and systems to select the most capable youth for a period of four years.

“Based on Organizational requirements, up to 25 % of each specific batch shall be enrolled in the regular cadre of the Armed Forces following a robust transparent and centralized selection process. With implementation of the Scheme, the duration of recruit training has been optimized to ensure better availability of soldiers in the field for deployment on active/combative duties,” it has told the court.

Defending the policy, the government has said the military discipline, physical fitness and specialized trade related skill development will ensure that there is availability of a ready pool of trained and disciplined manpower for other sectors in government and private market.

“Agniveers will also be provided with enhanced education qualification to ensure case of absorption in the society and requisite job profile,”  the court has been informed, adding that a nationalist, disciplined and skilled manpower would be provided to society.

The recruits will develop a sense of pride for having served the Nation through the Indian Armed Forces, their self-esteem needs will get fulfilled and overall confident youth will be groomed, the government has argued further.

“The recruits will have financial stability due to reasonable salary and exit package will help in settling down into any other profession after exiting the Indian Armed Forces. The Agniveer package has been designed to keep it comparable to the existing salary of a Sepoy with similar service,” it has contented.

The government has also rejected an argument that the scheme will potentially lead to militarisation of the society and called it completely untenable, unjustified, unsupported and misleading.

“It is submitted that very year, approximately one lakh soldiers, policemen and CAPF personnel join the civil society Apart from the above the contention of the petitioners that the scheme will potentially lead to militarization of the society is completely untenable, unjustified, unsupported and misleading. It is submitted that every year, approximately one lakh soldiers, policemen and CAPF personnel join the civil society,” it has told the court.

The Petitions

The apex court had transferred the writ petitions filed before it challenging the Agnipath recruitment scheme to the Delhi High Court, where similar petitions were already pending.

The batch of pleas are listed for hearing before the Delhi High Court on Wednesday.


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