SC junks pleas against HC judgment on Agnipath scheme, says candidates have no vested right to appointment


The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed two pleas challenging a Delhi High Court judgment that upheld the Centres Agnipath scheme for recruitment into the armed forces, saying candidates who got selected in recruitment drives like rallies before the launch of the short-term service scheme dont have a vested right to appointment.

The top court dismissed two separate pleas filed by Gopal Krishan and others and another by advocate ML Sharma against the high court verdict.

The bench, however, posted a third fresh plea related to recruitment in the Indian Air Force (IAF) prior to the launch of the Agnipath scheme for hearing on April 17.

It asked the Centre to file its response to the third plea related to recruitment in the IAF.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala said, “Sorry, we would not like to interfere with the high court verdict. The high court had dealt with all the aspects.” At the outset, advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for some of the candidates aspiring for jobs in the IAF, said the petitioners were put on the provisional select list and they had cleared the written examination and undergone physical and medical tests. “The government kept on saying that they will be given appointment letters which were being delayed due to the onset of COVID-19 pandemic. Petitioners did not join paramilitary forces as they were waiting for a letter from the IAF, Bhushan said, adding for three years the candidates had to wait and wait for their appointment letters. He called it a fit case for application of the doctrine of promissory estoppel (the doctrine prevents the promisor or enterprise from going back on promise).

The bench told Bhushan, “This is not a contract and moreover the doctrine of promissory estoppel is subject to the overarching public interest.” It said the court is not going to nullify the subsequent recruitment of candidates under the scheme and cancellation of the earlier process of recruitment cannot be termed as arbitrary.

“There is nothing for us to interfere and it is a matter of public employment and not contract,” the bench told Bhushan. Advocate Arunava Mukherjee, appearing for petitioner Gopal Krishan and others, said he is not challenging the Agnipath scheme but is only seeking that the earlier recruitment process forthe Army and IAF be completed. The recruitment process was not completed as the final test for Army was postponed a number of times due to the pandemic and, in case of IAF, the result was not declared even after conducting the final test. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, appearing for the Centre, said the high court had dealt with all the relevant aspects and given a detailed verdict. “During the pandemic, there were all kinds of issues and it was extraordinary times and every institution like this court had to deal with it. It is not a question of pick and choose of the candidates. We came up with the scheme to fill up the vacancies in the interest of defence and national interest,” she asserted.

The top court also dismissed Sharmas plea after he argued that the new scheme cannot be introduced by way of an executive order.

On March 27, the top court had agreed to hear pleas filed against the Delhi High Court judgment that upheld the Centres scheme for recruitment into the armed forces.

The high court had on February 27 said the Agnipath scheme was formulated in the national interest with a laudable objective of maintaining national security.

The court had dismissed a batch of petitions assailing the validity of the scheme while terming it a “well-thought” policy decision of the Centre.

Besides the pleas challenging the Agnipath scheme, the court had also rejected a bunch of petitions related to the recruitment process in the armed forces under certain previous advertisements while clarifying that such candidates do not have a right to seek recruitment.

Dismissing the pleas related to the previous advertisements, the high court had said the Agnipath scheme is in “public interest” and the aspirants cannot claim any right to seek recruitment on account of their participation in the processes initiated under notifications issued prior to the introduction of the new policy.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)