The Delhi High Court on Thursday granted the Centre four weeks time to respond to petitions challenging the government’s Agnipath scheme and those seeking appointments in accordance with the previous advertisements in Army, Navy and Air Force.
The division bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad listed the matter for hearing on October 19. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati, representing the Centre, told the court that the government will file a consolidated reply to the petitions.
The Supreme Court on July 19 had transferred to Delhi High Court the petitions challenging the Agnipath scheme. The next day, the Delhi High Court had listed the matter for hearing on August 25, saying it was yet to receive the files from the Supreme Court and would have to give time to the petitioners of similar cases in other High Courts to exercise their options in accordance with the Supreme Court order.
During the resumed hearing on Thursday, the Division Bench said even if notice was not issued on July 20, “the understanding” was that the court will hear the matters. “You were required to file a reply,” it said.
A counsel representing the Centre told the court that the Supreme Court had said that “all the matters should be transferred”. However, he added, 7-8 matters are yet to come to the Delhi High Court. “Once everything comes, we will be filing a consolidated reply,” the counsel submitted.
The court said there are different types of matters related to the scheme and previous recruitment processes. “The point is we cannot be endlessly dragging this matter,” said Justice Prasad.
ASG Bhati told the court that a common reply has been prepared but it is yet to be vetted by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta. However, the court said, “There are different categories of matters and there is a list before me. There are cases where the selection is over, where the selection is midway. There are slightly different types of cases. You file a reply. We will hear this matter finally.”
While transferring three petitions to the Delhi High Court, the Supreme Court in July said that the High Courts of Kerala, Patna, Punjab & Haryana and Uttrakhand shall provide an option to the petitioners to either have their petitions transferred here or keep them pending there with a liberty to intervene in the pending proceedings before Delhi High Court.
At least six petitions raising similar questions and seeking appointments in accordance with the previous advertisements in Army, Navy and Air Force are pending before Delhi High Court.