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Mere Acquittal In Case Involving Moral Turpitude Not Sufficient": Sikkim HC Upholds Full Court Resolution Withdrawing Appointment Of Civil Judge

Akshita Saxena
11 May 2021 6:46 AM GMT
Mere Acquittal In Case Involving Moral Turpitude Not Sufficient: Sikkim HC Upholds Full Court Resolution Withdrawing Appointment Of Civil Judge
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The Sikkim High Court on Monday ruled that acquittal of a person in a case involving moral turpitude by giving benefit of doubt is not sufficient to grant him employment. In order to secure an appointment, in this case a judicial one, a Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari observed that the acquittal must be an honourable one. It observed, "The employer is having right...

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The Sikkim High Court on Monday ruled that acquittal of a person in a case involving moral turpitude by giving benefit of doubt is not sufficient to grant him employment.

In order to secure an appointment, in this case a judicial one, a Bench of Chief Justice Jitendra Kumar Maheshwari observed that the acquittal must be an honourable one.

It observed,

"The employer is having right to consider all relevant facts available and as to antecedents and may take appropriate decision as to continuation of the employee in the employment looking to the standard of propriety and probity. The employer cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate for holding the civil post, if not acquitted clearly."

The above position of law was very recently re-affirmed by the Supreme Court in the case of State Of Rajasthan v. Love Kush Meena, where it was held,

"The mere fact of an acquittal would not suffice but rather it would depend on whether it is a clean acquittal based on total absence of evidence or in the criminal jurisprudence requiring the case to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, that parameter having not been met, benefit of doubt has been granted to the accused."

In the instant case, the Petitioner had challenged a Full Court resolution of the High Court, recommending to withdraw his appointment to the post of Civil Judge-cum-Judicial Magistrate on the ground of his alleged involvement in a criminal case registered under Section 420/468/471 of IPC for fraudulent tampering with a public document.

The Full Court, after examining all materials, had unanimously resolved that the conduct of the Petitioner is not free from the element of doubt, thus, he may not be given the assignment of administration of justice.

The Petitioner on the other hand argued that he was acquitted from the charge levelled against him and merely registering a criminal case in which he was acquitted by the Court, may not debar him from the appointment as Civil Judge.

The High Court in its order observed that during trial, the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the Petitioner beyond reasonable doubt, leading to his acquittal (not an honourable one).

It then referred to a plethora of precedents viz.:

Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration & Ors. v. Pradeep Kumar & Anr., (2018) 1 SCC 797, where the Supreme Court held that acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the suitability of the candidates on the post concerned, the acquittal or discharge of a person cannot always be inferred that he was falsely involved or he had no criminal antecedent.

Similarly, in case of State of Madhya Pradesh & Ors. v. Parvez Khan, (2015) 2 SCC 591, the Supreme Court observed that on the ground of criminal antecedents of candidate who was acquitted for want of evidence or was discharged, shall not be allowed to presume that he was completely exonerated.

In Commissioner of Police, New Delhi & Anr. v. Mehar Singh, (2013) 7 SCC 685, it was held by the Apex Court that the candidates whose acquittal is not honourable are not suitable for Government service and are to be avoided.

Further, in Ashutosh Pawar v. High Court of Madhya Pradesh & Anr., 2018 (2) MPLJ 419, a Full Bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court had observed that the expectations from a Judicial Officer are of much higher standard.

"There cannot be any compromise in respect of rectitude, honesty and integrity of a candidate who seeks appointment as Civil Judge. The personal conduct of a candidate who may be appointed as Judicial Officer has to be free from any taint. The same must be in tune with highest standard of propriety and probity. The standard of conduct is higher than that expected of an ordinary citizen and also higher than that expected of a professional in law as well. It is stated that mere acquittal in a criminal case would not be sufficient to infer that candidate possess a good character," it was ruled.

In this backdrop, the Sikkim High Court has held,

"On account of technical flow or due to non production of important witnesses or the witnesses turned hostile or due to settlement between the parties or otherwise prosecution has failed to prove the charge beyond reasonable doubt may not come within the purview of „honourably acquitted‟ and such acquittal is otherwise than "honourable" to which the proceedings may be followed. The discretion of such proceedings would lay on the appointing authority to take decision looking to the nature of job and suitability of propriety and probity of the candidate."

It added,

"on recording acquittal in a case involving moral turpitude on technical ground in absence of clean acquittal, the employer may consider all relevant facts as to antecedents and may take appropriate decision as to continuance of the employee. It is further clear that even on giving truthful declaration by the employee regarding a concluded criminal case, the employer still has the right to consider the antecedents and cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate." [Avtar Singh v. Union of India & Ors., (2016) 8 SCC 471]

Case Title: Tara Prasad Sharma v. State of Sikkim & Ors.

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