The Delhi High Court has sought the Air Force and Navy’s stand on a PIL challenging their alleged “arbitrary” and “discriminatory” recruitment practice of reserving the right to raise the cut-off marks for below officer rank posts after receiving applications. The plea claimed that unlike the Army, the two forces are discriminating in the recruitment of personnel below officer rank (PBOR) by evolving a short listing criteria even before the written examination, which takes away the chances of eligible candidates to participate in the selection process.
A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar issued a notice to the Centre, chiefs of Air Staff and Naval Staff, presidents of central airmen selection board and Directorate of manpower planning and recruitment, seeking their response on the petition in six weeks. The court listed the matter for December 15.
The plea, filed by Rajasthan resident Onkar Choudhary, alleged that the Air Force and Navy are adopting an “irrational” selection procedure and compared to the one followed by the Army. The petition, filed through advocate Ankur Chibber, sought quashing of advertisements dated July 22 and April 5 by the Navy and Air Force respectively, to the extent that they reserved the right for short-listing candidates by increasing the cut-off marks obtained in class 12 after receiving their applications for recruitment as PBOR.
It also sought a direction to the two forces to consider all eligible candidates by issuing them admit cards for the selection procedure. “In the advertisement, the Air Force and the Navy also prescribe the minimum eligibility criteria based on age and education qualification. “However, in contrast to the procedure followed by the Army, the Air Force and the Navy specify in their advertisement that they reserve the right for resorting to short listing criteria based on percentage of marks scored in 10+2 and that the qualifying cut-off percentage of a particular state may be increased if more number of application with higher percentage are received,” the petition said.
If the plea is allowed, it would benefit a large number of citizens who aspire to join the armed forces, it said. The plea said the “arbitrary actions” can lead to absurd consequences where candidates with a lower class 12th percentage may not be allowed to participate in the POBR exam conducted by the Navy and the Air Force but would be able to successfully clear the NDA examination, for recruitment as officers. “The act by the Air Force and Navy is irrational and does not have a rational nexus with the objective of recruitment,” it claimed.
It said that for enrolment of PBOR in the Army, the applicants, who fulfil the minimum eligibility criteria as specified in the advertisement, are issued an admit card for participating in the written examination. It added that there is no provision in the Army to disallow an eligible candidate from participating in the selection process if he has fulfilled the minimum eligibility qualification. The Army after going through the recruitment process resorts to the shortlisting based on the written examination and other criteria, it said.