The Delhi High Court on Monday upheld the constitutional validity of the Agnipath scheme, dismissing a batch of petitions challenging the Centre’s programme for short-term military recruitment, Live Law reported.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice J Subramonium Prasad also dismissed petitions seeking the resumption of previous schemes for recruitment to the defence services.

“This court finds that the [Agnipath] scheme was made in national interest and to ensure that armed forces are better equipped,” the judges noted, according to Live Law. “The petitioners have no vested right to seek recruitment.”

The High Court was hearing a batch of pleas challenging the Agnipath scheme that had been introduced in June. Among them, three petitions had been transferred by the Supreme Court in July, requesting the High Court to expedite the case.

The scheme involves recruiting citizens between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 into 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 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.

The High Court had reserved its verdict on the pleas on December 15.

During the hearings, Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati and Centre’s standing counsel Harish Vaidyanathan had said that more than 10 lakh aspirants had benefited from the two-year age relaxation, reported PTI.

“A lot of things we cannot say on affidavit, but we have acted in bona fide manner,” Bhati had said.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners challenging the cancellation of the recruitment processes for the armed forces, had argued that the government did not stop all recruitments in June 2021 when the scheme was announced. He said that some recruitments were held even in August 2021 and in the beginning of 2022.

The High Court had also asked the Centre to justify different pay scale for those recruited as Agniveers and those recruited as regular sepoys in the Indian Army if their job profile is same. Bhati had told the court that the terms and conditions of service and responsibilities for Agniveers is different from the regular soldiers.

“Agniveer cadre has been created as a separate cadre,” she had 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.”