Lawyer petitions SC for judicial panel to examine Agnipath scheme, SIT on violence
Seeking an expert committee to examine the scheme before its implementation, the petition sought a direction from the Court to set up an expert panel headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to study the impact of the scheme on “national security and Army of our nation”
A lawyer has approached the Supreme Court seeking a judicial committee to examine the impact of the Union Defence Ministry’s “Agnipath” scheme on national security and the Army and for setting up a special investigation team to enquire into the large-scale violence leading to destruction of public property following the launch of the scheme on June 14.
Referring to the widespread protests over the scheme that promises a four-year opportunity for youth to serve in the three branches of the armed forces, the public interest litigation filed by advocate Vishal Tiwari said, “Such experimental radical change in the structure and pattern of the military can lead to severe strategic uncertainties which could compromise the national security of the country.”
Seeking an expert committee to examine the scheme before its implementation, the petition sought a direction from the Court to set up an expert panel headed by a retired Supreme Court judge to study the impact of the scheme on “national security and Army of our nation”.
The concern over the scheme, according to the petition, primarily arises out of the short length of service, i.e. four years with no pension benefits. “The defence aspirants during their protests have alleged that this Agnipath scheme leads to a road of uncertainty for soldiers who will have to leave the services after four years,” the plea stated. After completion of the four-year contract, 25% of the total force will be retained and rest of the recruited personnel, referred to as “Agniveers” will have to leave with a lump sum being paid to them at the end of their service.
The petition even referred to the violence that erupted following the launch of the scheme and demanded a status report on the protests from the states of Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Bihar, Haryana, and Telangana which witnessed wide-scale burning of trains, destruction of public property, blockage of highways, and stoppage of public services.
The petition demanded a special investigation team (SIT) to enquire into the protests, assess damage caused to public property, and appoint Claim Commissioner as per a 2009 decision of the Supreme Court to recover damage caused to public property.
Referring to the demolition action undertaken recently by the Uttar Pradesh government to punish those who indulged in arson and violence in the state during protests over derogatory remarks made against Prophet Mohammad by two functionaries of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the petition said, “In the protest against the Agnipath scheme, a large damage has been caused to Railway and other government properties. Is the Government going to initiate some action against those who set fire to trains, will any bulldozer be run on their houses.”
Following the protests, the states of Bihar, Telangana, UP, Rajasthan and Haryana reported large-scale violence. In Secunderabad, one person was killed and three others injured during police firing on the protesting youngsters. In Bihar, several bogies of at least two trains were set on fire at Lakhisarai and Samastipur railways stations. In UP, police and public vehicles were torched and in Odisha, an armed forces aspirant reportedly committed suicide even as protests have led to cancellation of over 200 trains and buses with highways being blocked.
The petition said, “The rule of law is at stake and there has been severe violation of fundamental right to life of people against the mala fide and arbitrary scheme of the government resulting in such havoc. This situation requires the immediate judicial intervention.”
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