In an affidavit filed before the Apex Court, the Army refuted the allegation that unlike Air Force and Navy, there is "discriminatory classification" for recruitment on caste/religion/region basis to various regiments like Maratha Regiment, Rajasthan Rifles, Dogra Regiment, Jat Regiment, etc.

"Subject to the ineligibility imposed by the statute itself, the Act recognizes that all citizens are eligible for enrolment in regular army, and no discrimination has been made on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex, descent, place of birth, residence or any of them," the affidavit said.

The response was filed in compliance with the Apex Court order directing it to file response on PIL filed by one IS Yadav, a doctor hailing from Rewari in Haryana, seeking abolition of Indian Army's recruitment criteria for its duty soldiers on the grounds of caste, region and religion.

He said there were 22 army regiments which were based on caste, region and religion. "The assessment of the petitioner with regards to single castes based regiments is incorrect since Dogra, Garwal Rifles, Madras Regiment are not defined by caste but by region. These regiments are drawn from specified social and linguistic groups without reference to caste being the source of recruitment," the affidavit said.

It, however, admitted that certain regiments are composed and organized/grouped on reasonable classification lines but the overall process of recruitment is open to all classes.

"Certain regiments of the Army are organized on lines of classification because social, cultural and linguistic homogeneity has been observed to be a force multiplier as a battle winning factor," the affidavit said, adding, "The commonality of language and culture only further augments the smooth execution of operation".

"Composing or grouping the individuals of common region as the source of recruitment is for administrative convenience and common training/operational requirements," it said. Yadav, in his plea, submitted that there is "discriminatory classification" for recruitment on caste/religion/region basis and submitted that a national policy of recruitment be formed in the Army.

"At recruitment stage there cannot be caste-cum-religion-cum-region based classification. There cannot be specific recruitment on the basis of caste, region and religion to various regiments like Maratha Regiment, Rajasthan Rifles, Dogra Regiment, Jat Regiment, etc. This classification of the army is a British legacy and is not sanctioned by any law made by Parliament," he said.

"In Indian Air Force and in Indian Navy there is no such discriminatory classification of Squadrons/Fleets based on caste/religion/region and hence recruitment in Indian Air Force and Indian Navy is on all-India, all-class basis. Yet in Army alone there are caste/religion/region based regiments," the petitioner submitted.

(Agencies)

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