HC issues notice on plea challenging creation of ‘Village Defence Guards Scheme’
Post by Syed Rukaya on Saturday, January 21, 2023
Srinagar, Jan 20: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh has sought objections from the Government of India (GoI) and J&K government to a plea challenging government order issued on August 14, 2022 whereby sanction was accorded for creation of Village Defence Guards Scheme (VDGS) 2022.
Issuing notice to GoI and J&K government, Justice Rahul Bharti directed the authorities to file objections to the plea within a period of six weeks.
The court was hearing a plea filed by 619 Village Defence Committees (VDC) Special Police Force (SPOs) seeking direction to the government not to convert the status of VDC SPOs into Village Defence Groups or Leaders or Heads.
The plea stated that coming into operation of the said scheme, the previous set-up in place in terms of government order issued on September 30, 1995 wherein VDC had come into picture has been put to an end.
It stated that pursuant to the new scheme, the District Police Headquarters, Ramban issued an order on December 23, 2022 to carry out the creation of Village Defence Guards bearing two categories i.e. category V1 and V2.
Under the scheme, the persons leading the VDGs in both the categories will be paid Rs 4,500 and Rs 4,000 per month respectively by the government.
The petitioners, who claim themselves to be SPOs in the context of their placements in the VDC, submitted that already engaged VDC personnels who reckon themselves to be SPOs, have been taken under the wings of VDGS-2022.
They contended that they feel themselves aggrieved by the purported change of their position or status and the monthly financial return related to their status and, as such, seek the indulgence of the Court for an issuance of mandamus to the respondents not to convert Village Defence Committee SPOs into Village Defence Groups or Leaders or Heads.
It was also submitted by the petitioners that similarly situated VDC SPOs have called in question the government order of 2022 before the Co-ordinate Bench in which the bench on December 31, 2022 has granted interim indulgence in the matter by putting the respondents in the said writ petitions to notice and in the meanwhile directing that the petitioners in those writs to continue to be governed by the Scheme under government order dated 30.09.1995.
The petitioners have sought to declare the government order issued on August 14, 2022 as ultra vires being violative of Part III of the Constitution of India.
They have also sought to read vested rights in their status by reference to the government order issued on September 30, 1995 and expect the J&K government to carry on with the engagement of the petitioners as VDC members.
Justice Bharti after hearing the parties said that the principle relief is aimed against the government order dated 14.08.2022, whereby the J&K government has come up with the overhauling of the entire security apparatus with respect to the citizen based and drawn defence system of Villages to meet the new shades of challenges of terrorism and anti-national activities.
The policy, the court said, which has led to the framing of the government order has long term and durated financial implications worked out to come forward with honorarium payable Rs. 4,500 and Rs. 4,000 per month to the two categories of Village Defence Guards.
The court said that it is not inclined to grant the direction of the nature as given by the Co-ordinate Bench in one of the petitions in view of the fact that in the present case, the petitioners have not sought any direction in the main case from the Court that the respondents shall be directed to govern the petitioners in terms of government order of 1995 and, as such, the said government order of 1995 which has come to suffer supersession in terms of new government order of 2022 cannot be revived by way of an interim direction by it.
"In case the petitioners would succeed in the final outcome of this writ petition then the petitioners would surely be entitled to have all the benefits coming to them in terms of their claim with respect to status as well as the financial entitlements," the court said.
Denying the main relief to the petitioners, the court observed that given the security related policy, which has gone into structuring and making of government order of 2022, "cannot be left disturbed by any poking at the interim stage from the end of this Court."