HC raised queries on married persons recruitment as JAG

The bench raised these queries while hearing a PIL challenging the restriction on married individuals from being considered for JAG department, the legal arm of the army.

Do married individuals lack wisdom making them ineligible for recruitment into the Judge Advocate General (JAG) branch of the armed forces, the Delhi High Court asked the Centre on Thursday.

"How are unmarried men/women better off than married ones? What goes away from married men/ women? Wisdom? What if the person is in a live-in relationship? What if there is a divorce," were the questions posed to the central government by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar.

The bench raised these queries while hearing a PIL challenging the restriction on married individuals from being considered for JAG department, the legal arm of the army.

The court also asked the counsel for the petitioner, Kush Kalra, to find out what was the position in other countries, especially developed nations, regarding recruitment of married persons in the legal arm of the armed forces.

With the direction, the court listed the matter for further hearing on November 6.

The Centre had earlier told the court that "right to marry" was not a fundamental right and does not come in the ambit of Right to Life under the Constitution.

It had contended that there was no discrimination on the basis of marital status in the JAG department or any other stream of the force.

The Centre had said the restriction was imposed on both men and women as pre-commission training involves a high amount of physical and mental stress and once they are commissioned, there is no bar on marrying or having children.

Till 2017, married women were not eligible for recruitment in the JAG department while there was no such restriction on married men. This policy was challenged by Kalra in 2016 for being discriminatory to female candidates.

During the pendency of that petition, the government issued a corrigendum on August 14, 2017, amending the marital criterion according to which now only unmarried men and women were to be considered eligible for various entry schemes of army including JAG department.

Kalra had, thereafter, withdrawn his earlier petition and filed a fresh one challenging the alleged "discrimination" towards married individuals and said the corrigendum curtailed the civilians' rights to marry after attaining the legal age.

The latest petition, filed through advocate Charu Wali Khanna, 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.

JAG is the legal advisor to the Chief of the Army Staff in matters of military, martial and international law.

The plea 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.

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