The Delhi High Court today questioned the "reasonableness" of the Centre's policy to bar married persons from recruitment into the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the Indian Army, asking how does marital status affect an individual's ability to become an officer.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notice to the Ministry of Defence and the Directorate General of Recruiting of the Indian Army seeking their stand on a PIL which has termed as "institutionalised discrimination" the restriction on married individuals from being considered for JAG, the legal arm of the army.
"What is the reasonableness of such a policy? Prima facie we are satisfied that what the petitioner is saying is correct. The armed forces cannot behave like this. We are unable to digest this.
"What is this that married persons can't apply for this (JAG)," the court said and asked the ministry to file an affidavit indicating their response before the next date of hearing on November 19.
In his petition, advocate Kush Kalra has questioned the basis for barring married persons from joining JAG when marital status is not an eligibility criteria for the "equally ranked" judiciary and Indian Civil Services.
"Due to the institutionalized discrimination being practised by the respondents (MoD), law graduates aged 21-27 years are being deprived of their fundamental rights on grounds of marital status.
"This discrimination on grounds of marriage is violative of fundamental right of equality before law, equality of opportunity in the matters of public employment, right to practice any profession and occupation, human rights of the women and right to live with dignity," the plea has said.
It has also claimed that in India, especially in rural areas, men and women get married at an early age and such policies would deny them the opportunity to be part of the JAG, which is responsible for the administration of military justice and also deals with court martial matters.
It has also contended that when the legal age of marriage in India is 18 years and 21 years for females and males, respectively, there was no justification for making marital status an eligibility criteria.
It has sought that the special army instructions of 1992 and 2017, which disentitle married women and married men, respectively, from applying for JAG be declared as void.
The petition has also urged the court to direct the ministry to withdraw its latest advertisement calling for applications for the JAG entry scheme starting from April next year.
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