The Delhi High Court on Wednesday asked the Union government to clarify why there were different pay scales for those recruited under the Agnipath scheme and the regular cadre of the Indian Army, reported PTI.

“If the job profile is same, then how you justify different pay?” a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad asked. “A lot will depend on the job profile. Get instructions on this and put it on an affidavit.”

The High Court is hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Agnipath scheme that had been introduced in June.

The scheme is for recruiting citizens between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for the armed forces for only four years, with a provision to retain 25% of them for 15 more years. The announcement had triggered protests across several states in the country as aspirants demanded permanent recruitment with pension benefits.

Following the protests, the Centre extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment under the scheme.

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At Wednesday’s hearing, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati told the High Court that those recruited under the scheme, called Agniveers, are separate from the regular cadre. She added that their terms and conditions of their service and responsibilities are also different from the regular soldiers, reported Bar and Bench.

Bhati added that the rank of Agniveers will be lower than that of sepoys who join regular services of the armed forces.

“Agniveer cadre has been created as a separate cadre,” she added. “It will not be counted as a regular service. After serving as an Agniveer for four years, if he or she volunteers and is found fit then his journey in the regular cadre begins.”

Justice Prasad then pointed out that the Agniveers will be trained in arms and become jobless after four years.

To this, the additional solicitor general said that the government has made plans to provide job quota for Agniveers in various fields after they complete their four years of service. She added said that besides the quota, Agniveers will also be given adequate technical expertise and provisions have been made to grant them Class 10 and Class 12 degrees.

Meanwhile, Advocates Prashant Bhushan and Ankur Chibber, appearing for the petitioners whose recruitment under regular service of armed forces could not be finalised due to the Agnipath scheme, told the High Court that the government kept on delaying the appointment letters stating that it was due to Covid-19 pandemic or other administrative reasons.

They said that that many of the petitioners gave up the opportunities in the Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and other paramilitary forces as they had been assured that their recruitment letters from the Army will come soon.

“I am not challenging the Agnipath scheme but it is completely arbitrary and unreasonable for them to stop the recruitment,” they said.

Bhushan and Chhibber also argued that even though the government stopped recruitment in their cases, it continued with rally recruitment at several other locations.

Bhati maintained that the recruitment was not halted in view of the Agnipath scheme and there were cases where applicants’ jobs were finalised. The bench, however, said this submission was “too vague in the air”

The High Court then asked Bhati to take instructions on the matter and listed the case for hearing on Thursday.