The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a petition challenging the Union government’s Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment into the armed forces next week, India Today reported.

A group of 31 Air Force aspirants filed the petition demanding that the scheme should not be made applicable to those undergoing the selection process. Their lawyer, Kumud Lata Das, argued that the implementation of the Agnipath scheme would reduce the tenure of the petitioners to four years from 20 years, according to Live Law.

Under the Agnipath scheme, citizens aged between 17-and-a-half and 21 years will be eligible to apply. Of these recruits, 25% will be eligible to apply as regular personnel after they complete their four-year service.

The petitioners told the court that they are awaiting enrolment as Airmen in the Air Force. They said that they were shortlisted in a provisional list published on May 31, but the recruitment did not take place on account of administrative delays.

The Air Force aspirants said that the Centre announced the Agnipath scheme on June 14 without completing the enrolment process that was scheduled to take place in February 2021.

Lawyer ML Sharma, who has also filed a petition challenging the scheme, mentioned the matter before the court on Monday.

A vacation bench comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and JK Maheshwari agreed to list the case next week, subject to approval from Chief Justice NV Ramana.

Protests against the scheme

Since June 15, violent protests have taken place in several states against the new military recruitment plan. At many places, agitators burnt and vandalised railway property, blocked train tracks and clashed with officials. In Bihar alone, 60 train coaches have been burnt and property worth about Rs 700 crore has been damaged.

The protestors are demanding permanent recruitment under the regular process as well as pension and other retirement benefits that are not a part of the Agnipath scheme.

In a bid contain the outrage, the Union government has increased the age limit for recruitment in the armed forces under the scheme to 23 years for this year. It has also announced a 10% reservation for Agnipath recruits in the jobs offered by the home and defence ministries.