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Acquittal Based On Benefit Of Doubt In Serious Crime Cannot Make Candidate Eligible For Public Employment: Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
4 April 2021 5:08 AM GMT
Acquittal Based On Benefit Of Doubt In Serious Crime Cannot Make Candidate Eligible For Public Employment: Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court reiterated that acquittal based on a benefit of doubt in respect of a heinous or serious nature of crime cannot make the candidate eligible for public employment.In this case, Love Kush Meena cleared the recruitment of constable in Rajasthan Police Service. However, he was not appointed in view of being tried in a criminal case. It was found that, though he was acquitted,...

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The Supreme Court reiterated that acquittal based on a benefit of doubt in respect of a heinous or serious nature of crime cannot make the candidate eligible for public employment.

In this case, Love Kush Meena cleared the recruitment of constable in Rajasthan Police Service. However, he was not appointed in view of being tried in a criminal case. It was found that, though he was acquitted, the charges against him were not of a trivial nature but were serious offences and the candidate was not acquitted by the Court honourably. Against this denial of appointment, he approached the Rajasthan High Court. The High Court allowed his writ petition observing that since no cogent evidence connecting the accused person to commission of offence was found, he was not disentitled for appointment to the post of a constable, notwithstanding his involvement in a criminal case. 

In appeal filed by the State, taking note of the facts of the criminal case, the bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy observed that the present case can hardly fall under the category of a clean acquittal and the Trial Court was thus right in using the terminology of benefit of doubt in respect of such acquittal.

"The judgment in Avtar Singh's case (supra) on the relevant parameter extracted aforesaid clearly stipulates that where in respect of a heinous or serious nature of crime the acquittal is based on a benefit of reasonable doubt, that cannot make the candidate eligible...
...We may note here that the circular dated 28.03.2017 is undoubtedly very wide in its application. It seeks to give the benefit to candidates including those acquitted by the Court by giving benefit of doubt. However, such circular has to be read in the context of the judicial pronouncements and when this Court has repeatedly opined that giving benefit of doubt would not entitle candidate for appointment, despite the circular, the impugned decision of the competent authority dated 23.05.2017 cannot be said to suffer from infirmity as being in violation of the circular when it is in conformity with the law laid down by this Court.",
the Court said while setting aside the High Court judgment.

In Avtar Singh vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court summarized the principles to be followed by Employers while dealing with issues related to suppression of information or submitting false information in the verification form by employees/candidates as to the question of having been criminally prosecuted, arrested or as to pendency of a criminal case.

  1. Information given to the employer by a candidate as to conviction, acquittal or arrest, or pendency of a criminal case, whether before or after entering into service must be true and there should be no suppression or false mention of required information.
  2. While passing order of termination of services or cancellation of candidature for giving false information, the employer may take notice of special circumstances of the case, if any, while giving such information. The employer shall take into consideration the Government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to the employee, at the time of taking the decision.
  3. In case there is suppression or false information of involvement in a criminal case where conviction or acquittal had already been recorded before filling of the application/verification form and such fact later comes to knowledge of employer, any of the following recourse appropriate to the case may be adopted.
  4. In a case trivial in nature in which conviction had been recorded, such as shouting slogans at young age or for a petty offence which if disclosed would not have rendered an incumbent unfit for post in question, the employer may, in its discretion, ignore such suppression of fact or false information by condoning the lapse.
  5. Where conviction has been recorded in case which is not trivial in nature, employer may cancel candidature or terminate services of the employee. If acquittal had already been recorded in a case involving moral turpitude or offence of heinous/serious nature, on technical ground and it is not a case of clean acquittal, or benefit of reasonable doubt has been given, the employer may consider all relevant facts available as to antecedents, and may take appropriate decision as to the continuance of the employee.
  6. In a case where the employee has made declaration truthfully of a concluded criminal case, the employer still has the right to consider antecedents, and cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate.
  7.  In case when fact has been truthfully declared in character verification form regarding pendency of a criminal case of trivial nature, employer, in facts and circumstances of the case, in its discretion may appoint the candidate subject to decision of such case.
  8. In a case of deliberate suppression of fact with respect to multiple pending cases such false information by itself will assume significance and an employer may pass appropriate order cancelling candidature or terminating services as appointment of a person against whom multiple criminal cases were pending may not be proper.
  9. If criminal case was pending but not known to the candidate at the time of filling the form, still it may have adverse impact and the appointing authority would take decision after considering the seriousness of the crime.
  10. In case the employee is confirmed in service, holding Departmental enquiry would be necessary before passing order of termination/removal or dismissal on the ground of suppression or submitting false information in verification form.
  11. For determining suppression or false information attestation/verification form has to be specific, not vague. Only such information which was required to be specifically mentioned has to be disclosed. If information not asked for but is relevant comes to knowledge of the employer the same can be considered in an objective manner while addressing the question of fitness. However, in such cases action cannot be taken on basis of suppression or submitting false information as to a fact which was not even asked for.
  12. Before a person is held guilty of suppressio veri or suggestio falsi, knowledge of the fact must be attributable to him.

Case: State Of Rajasthan Vs Love Kush Meena [CA 3894 OF 2020]
Coram: Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy
Citation: LL 2021 SC 193 

Click here to Read/Download Judgment

 


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