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Top court taps Centre on army ‘bias’ plea

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The Supreme Court today sought the solicitor-general’s help to decide on a public interest litigation that seeks the quashing of caste, region or religion-based recruitment to the army.

Such recruitment violates Article 14 (equality), Article 15 (prohibition against discrimination) and Article 16 (equal opportunities in public employment) of the Constitution, petitioner I.S. Yadav has argued.

According to Yadav, a medical practitioner from Uttar Pradesh, the continuing practice of community or region-based “classification” of soldiers in the army is a British legacy that lacks sanction from any law enacted by Parliament. He has pointed out that the air force and navy have no such system.

“In the army alone there are caste, religion and region-based regiments such as the Jat Regiment, Sikh Regiment, Mahar Regiment, Gorkha Rifles, Garhwal Regiment, Dogra Regiment, etc. (These have a) fixed class composition... and hence recruitment to these regiments is primarily based on caste, region and religion,” the petition says.

It says that in these army units, 95 per cent of personnel — apart from the officers, cooks and dhobis who make up just five per cent — belong only to a particular group.

This, it says, is true also of the elite President’s Bodyguard to which only Hindu Rajputs, Hindu Jats and Jat Sikhs can be recruited as jawans.

“That means, no other Indian having any physical, educational (or) mental capability is eligible for recruitment to the President’s Bodyguard,” the petition says, wondering at the “discrimination” relating to “the bodyguards for the highest constitutional post in the country”.

The Telegraph could not immediately verify the claims about the recruitment norms made in the petition.

The petition also says that only Jat Sikhs are recruited to the Sikh Regiment and Mazhabi and Ramdasiya Sikhs to the Sikh Light Infantry, while pointing out that the Sikh religion does not permit caste divisions.

The petitioner has, therefore, urged the apex court to pass these two directions:

No citizen shall, on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth or residence, be discriminated against in respect of any employment.

A national policy of recruitment to the army should be framed so that every eligible Indian is recruited on merit, as in the air force and navy.

The army, which employs around 15 lakh people of whom a fourth retire every year, should not be the “pocket privilege for the captive consumption” of any particular caste, class, community, region or religion, the petition says.

Yadav is being represented by senior counsel S. Balakrishnan and counsel Srinarayan Jha.

The petition is being heard by the bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra.