27 Aug 2023 6:49 AM GMT
In a case related to “suppression of material information” about a pending criminal case by a candidate, the Supreme Court highlighted the crucial aspect of specificity when seeking information from candidates during the verification process. It reiterated the principle laid down in Avtar Singh v. Union of India (2016) 8 SCC 471 held that- “For determining suppression or false...
In a case related to “suppression of material information” about a pending criminal case by a candidate, the Supreme Court highlighted the crucial aspect of specificity when seeking information from candidates during the verification process.
It reiterated the principle laid down in Avtar Singh v. Union of India (2016) 8 SCC 471 held that- “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.”
The bench comprising Justices J.K. Maheshwari and Justice K.V. Vishwanathan was hearing an appeal filed by the State of West Bengal against a judgment of the Calcutta High Court which had directed the appellant to issue the letter of appointment to the respondent as a Police Constalbe subject to final outcome of the pending criminal case.
The case revolved around the appointment of a candidate to the post of constable in the West Bengal Police Force. The candidate had faced allegations of suppressing information related to a criminal case during the application process. A column had to be filled in the form where candidates were required to provide details about their arrest, detention, conviction, and sentence for any offense.
The Court noted that the respondent(constable) was not obligated to furnish information about pending criminal cases, as the query specifically pertained to arrest, detention, and conviction.
The Court held that “In this case, the information sought in verification roll was not specific and vague in nature. The respondent has specifically disclosed the information which was required to be furnished. Considering the subsequent development of the clean acquittal of respondent for the petty offences, it requires consideration objectively by the authority, about the question of fitness, ignoring the issue of surpassing the information.”
The Court cited the precedent set by B. Chinnam Naidu’s case which held that “There was no specific requirement to mention as to whether any case is pending or whether the applicant had been arrested. In view of the specific language so far as column 12 is concerned the respondent cannot be found guilty of any suppression.”
The Supreme Court also reaffirmed an employer's discretion in considering antecedents even after a candidate's truthful disclosure of a pending criminal case and subsequent acquittal.
In Avtar Singh case it was held that “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.”
Therefore the court held that “In our view, the issuance of order of appointment is required to be left at the discretion of the employer and the High Court ought not to have taken away the said discretion. Accordingly, we modify the order passed by the High Court.”
In view of the finding that there was no suppression of material fact, nor was the respondent involved in any serious offense, the court directed the appellant to consider the case of the respondent and issue order of appointment to the post of constable in West Bengal Police Force within a period of four weeks from the date of passing of the order. The authorities were directed to take note of the discussion in the judgment and exercise their discretion judiciously in assessing the suitability and antecedents of the candidate.
What are the guidelines laid down in the Avtar Singh judgment?
The judgment referred to Avtar Singh v. Union of India, (2016) 8 SCC 471 which has outlined definitive guidelines for employers when dealing with cases involving suppression or false mention of criminal information by candidates:
The judgment also provided distinct courses of action for various scenarios:
Case title: State of West Bengal v. Mitul Kumar Jana
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 714
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment