New Delhi, Jul 5 (PTI)A petition seeking to complete the recruitment process in the Indian Air Force as per a 2019 notification without being affected by the Centre's Agnipath Scheme Tuesday came up for hearing before the Delhi High Court.
The plea was heard by a bench of Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Saurabh Banerjee which listed the petition after two weeks after being informed that a similar matter is filed in the Supreme Court and is likely to come up next week, a lawyer said.
In the high court, the petition filed by several defence force aspirants sought to publish the enrollment list in terms of the December 11, 2019 notification and consequently issue appointment letters.
The petitioners also sought a declaration that the 2019 notification shall remain unaffected by the Agnipath Scheme 2022 and June 24, 2022 notification.
The petition, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, said that on December 11, 2019, a notification was issued by the IAF inviting applications for intake 01/2021 for the post of Airmen in Group 'X' trades (except education instructor trade) and Group 'Y' trades (except automobile technician, Indian Air Force (Security), Indian Air Force (Police), musician trades).
The recruitment was to be done in three phases, which consisted of an online test, a physical fitness test, a group discussion, adaptability tests, and a medical examination pursuant to the notification, the petitioners applied for the posts and also qualified in all three phases, it said.
The plea said thereafter, a provisional selection list containing the names of the petitioners was published on May 31, 2021, and it also contained the names of the candidates, cut-off marks, and their position on the merit list.
The list also stated that the enrolment list containing names of selected candidates would be published on July 10, 2021, however, it was not published, the plea said.
“Thereafter, various successive statements were issued by respondent no. 2 (Union of India through Central Airmen Selection Board) on their official website stating that there is a delay in declaration of result on account of COVID and administrative reasons,” it said.
The plea claimed that no official notification has been issued by the authorities till date and the official website wherein the petitioners were able to check their results for intake 01/2021 has been removed by the respondents.
The petition said the new reform was “aimed at cutting the army's expenditure on salaries and pensions” and as per the statement of Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha, “the pending recruitment is cancelled”.
“A new scheme, that is, the Agnipath Scheme was introduced by respondent no.1 (union of India). Under this scheme, the candidates would be selected to serve in the Indian Air Force for a period of four years, after which only 25 per cent of them would be retained, unlike the notification dated December 11, 2019, wherein initial engagement is for 20 years,” it said.
The petitioners argued that the decision to annul the entire selection process which has reached an advanced stage only so that the new Agnipath Scheme policy can be applied by restarting the selection is arbitrary and having applied for the post pursuant to the 2019 recruitment notification, they are entitled to have a legitimate expectation that their result would be declared and consequently be appointed if they are considered fit.
“The cancellation of the recruitment process initiated via 2019 notification is wholly illegal, arbitrary as well as violative of the rights of the petitioners guaranteed under Article 16(1) of the Constitution,” it said.
The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths 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 have erupted in several states against the scheme.
Later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.
Several petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the damage to public properties, including that of Railways, during violent protests against the scheme. PTI SKV ADS
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