The Centre and the Indian Army has told the Delhi High Court that any change in the policy which bars married males and females from recruitment in Judge Advocate General (JAG) department and other entries across the board will affect security of entire nation and the interest of 130 crore people cannot be challenged or compromised for merely thousands of people applying for JAG department. The affidavit sworn by an adjutant, electronic equipment evaluation Sub group and filed before the high court by the standing counsel of Centre, denied making any discrimination on the basis of marital status of candidates.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL moved by Kush Kalra challenging the restriction on married males and females in applying for recruitment to JAG department in violation of Article 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution. The affidavit says, if the petition is allowed, "the affect shall be felt on the whole nation's security". On the petitioner arguing against the bar on married men and women being in violation of Article 21, the affidavit says, "Right to marry cannot be right to life under Article 21.”
There is no where written or proved that life of person would be miserable or unhealthy without marriage." It is to be noted that till 2017, married females were not eligible for recruitment in JAG department while there was no such restriction on married males. This policy was challenged by Kalra in year 2016 for being discriminatory to female candidates. During the pendency of the said petition, the government issued a corrigendum dated August 14, 2017 thereby amending the marital criterion according to which now just like female counterparts, only unmarried men were to be considered eligible for various entry schemes of Army including JAG department.
Following this, Kalra withdrew his earlier petition and filed a fresh one challenging the discrimination towards married females and also males and said the corrigendum curtailed the civilians' rights to marry after attaining the legal age. In response, the Centre and the Indian Army said, "In so far as the public interest is concerned the prime duty and responsibility of Indian Army are to protect the interest of nation which is made out of entire territory and approx. 130 crore people of India. Thus, any policy, rules pertaining to terms and conditions of service as well as the eligibility criteria for Army is formulated by the government of India keeping in view the effectiveness, functional and operational requirement of Army to protect the interest of 130 crore people of India. "Whereas the number of candidates applying for JAG department is only in thousands. Thus, the interest of 130 crore people cannot be challenged or compromised for merely thousands of people on the basis of Public Interest Litigation".
The affidavit said if the petition is allowed the larger public interest would be overlooked for personal interest of a few people. It also said that there is no violation of Article 14 of the Constitution as the recruitment conditions as to marital status is uniformly applied not only for JAG entry but the entire Army wherein only unmarried males and females are eligible to be commissioned in all streams of the Army. Indian army women officers are not dismissed on the ground of marital status and pregnancy as the Indian Army considers pregnancy a natural consequence of marriage. Pregnancy is their natural right being natural consequence of marriage and hence, after commission, they are granted all service benefits viz maternity leave, child care leave etc. It also said that "all officers of the Army are trained and equipped to fill into shoes of an officer of any other arms/ service if necessitated due to ops exigencies. Hence JAG Department officers cannot be treated differently in so far as the pre-commissioning training is concerned and their role after commissioning has no relevance to the eligibility".
Tags : #Delhi #HC #Right #Marry #JAG #Fundamental #Right