Plea in SC for SIT probe into violent protests against Agnipath scheme, damage to properties 

A PIL has been filed in the Supreme Court seeking a direction to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the damage to public properties including that of railways and violent protests against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme.

The PIL has been filed by advocate Vishal Tiwari, who also sought directions to the Centre and Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan governments to submit a status report on the violent protests.

Tiwari in his plea also sought a direction to set up an expert committee under the chairmanship of a retired apex court judge to examine the scheme and its impact on national security and Army.

He further sought directions to the Centre and the states arrayed as parties to appoint claim commissioners under the guidelines laid down by the apex court in its verdict of 2009 passed in a suo motu case initiated after incidents of damages to public properties.

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“The petitioner through this present Public Interest Litigation (Civil) under Article 32 of the Constitution of India would like to bring to the court’s attention the devastated condition of the country resulting from the Agnipath scheme launched by the Respondent No.1 (Union of India) through its Ministry of Defence,” the plea said.

It said that the consequence has been far reaching for the citizens of this country resulting in intensified vandalism and protest leading to severe destruction of public property and goods.

“The country is yet again witnessing another such societal upset and fatal condition due to the recent launch of the Agnipath scheme dated June 14, 2022 by the Respondent No. 1 through its Ministry of Defence. The Agnipath scheme was designed for the recruitment of young personnel in the all three armed forces divisions. It is a scheme which entails a recruitment process for individuals with ranks below that of the officer with the goal of deploying fitter and younger troops on the front lines which will be based on a four year contract,” it said.

The plea said that since the launch of the scheme, the country is facing severe and uncontrolled mass violence and protests against the scheme.

“The concern which rises through this scheme is primarily the length of service that is 4 years is not reasonable and there remains 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 4 years. After the completion of the 4 years contract, 25 percent of the total force will be retained and the rest of the personnel will have to leave which puts a serious uncertainty on their future,” it said.

It added that along with no job security and protection, there will be no pension benefits including the disability pension, the soldiers will get a lump sum of a little more than Rs 11 lakh when they end their fourth tenure.

“As opined by various experienced military veterans, this scheme of contractual fixed recruitment could compromise on training, morale and commitment in comparison to the permanent recruits. 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,” it said.

“The intensity of such protest has been hard hitting as the consequence has resulted in Eastern Central Railway has cancelled 164 trains, the official reports have also confirmed that a large number of passengers were seen stranded on the different railway stations including Patna Junction, people are also standing in bus terminals waiting for buses as the highways are also blocked due to the protest,” the plea said.

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