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End caste, religion barriers in Army recruitment: PIL
Supreme Court seeks opinion of Solicitor General on the issue
R Sedhuraman
Legal Correspondent

New Delhi, December 10
The Supreme Court today sought the assistance of Solicitor General Rohinton Nariman in adjudicating a PIL that has sought abolition of recruitments in the Army on the basis of caste, religion and region which was part of the divide and rule strategy of the British to prevent the emergence of national loyalty among service personnel or a monolithic integrated Indian Army.

A bench comprising Justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra asked the PIL petitioner, IS Yadav who is a doctor running a nursing home in Haryana, to hand over a copy of his petition to the SG and posted the matter for further hearing at a later date.

According to the PIL, the government was claiming that Indian Army was truly secular, but it had regiments based on caste, religion and region such as Rajput, Sikh, Gorkha, Naga, Jat, Rajasthan and Maratha regiments even today.

These regiments created a feeling of pride among some communities, but at the same time made people from other sections and regions feel that they were inferior. “This is unhealthy and is against the interest of the Army itself and the larger interests of the nation,” the petition contended.

“It is belittling and demeaning to project the supreme sacrifice of the soldiers as motivated by caste-based regimental colours and not as dedications to the motherland,” the PIL contended further.

Pointing out that the army was recruiting 1.5 million people, the petition said “such a major source of employment should not become the pocket prerogative of select communities or castes. Talent or bravery is not the monopoly of the residents of any particular state or community.”

Recruitments based on such a policy “is against the constitutional mandate of equal treatment which the state is expected to extend to all its citizens,” senior advocate S Balakrishnan and M Veerappa contended.

In January 1949, the Centre issued an order abolishing recruitments on such criteria but backtracked from it the next year. “Its retention in independent India is because of narrow clannish and caste/communal considerations of petty small time politicians,” the PIL said. The Air Force and the Navy were not following any such discriminatory classification, the petition pointed out.

social (dis)order

The PIL mentions 22 such infantry regiments. Some of these are:

  • Parachute Regiment & Special Forces
  • Mechanised Infantry: One class each of Jat, Rajput, Sikh, Maratha, Garhwali, Dogra and South Indian
  • Punjab Regiment: Sikhs, Dogras
  • Madras Regiment: South Indian classes
  • Rajputana Rifles: Jats & Rajputs
  • Sikh Regiment: Jutt Sikhs
  • Sikh Light Infantry: Mazhhabi & Ramdasia
  • Garhwal Rifles & Garhwal Scouts: Garhwalis
  • Naga Regiment: (Nagas & Kumaonis)
  • JK Rifles: Dogras, Gorkhas, Sikhs, Muslims
  • J&K Light Infantry: Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs from the state except one unit having Dogras, Sikhs, Buddhists, Gorkhas & others





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