The Supreme Court has observed that criminal antecedents of an employee or a candidate cannot be said to be clear when he was acquitted in a criminal case on the ground of benefit of doubt and not because the case against him was found to be false.
Screening Committee held Bunty to be unfit for appointment as a constable in the police service of the State of Madhya Pradesh on the ground that he was involved in a case involving moral turpitude for the commission of an offence under Sections 392 and 411 of the IPC, even though he was acquitted in the said case.
Allowing his plea, the Madhya Pradesh High Court held that since the judgment of acquittal was based on material on record, he was acquitted since the offence was not proved beyond reasonable doubt; appointment order has to be issued as a matter of course.
The state carried the matter to the Apex court contending that mere acquittal on the ground of benefit of the doubt could not have enured in favour of the candidate so as to be entitled to appointment. Examining the case records, the bench comprising Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Navin Sinha said:
"Considering the nature of allegation in the case, it was a case of impersonation as a police officer and thereby committing the offence under Sections 392 and 411 of the IPC. It was a case of the serious kind, which involved moral turpitude and having not been granted the clean acquittal in the criminal case merely by the grant of benefit of the doubt, clouds cannot be said to be clear as to the antecedents of the respondent. Thus, the perception formed by the Screening Committee that he was unfit to be inducted in the disciplined police force was appropriate."
Referring to earlier judgments on the subject, the bench said that, in case of acquittal in a criminal case is based on the benefit of the doubt or any other technical reason; the employer can take into consideration all relevant facts to take an appropriate decision as to the fitness of an incumbent for appointment/continuance in service. Setting aside the High Court order, the court said:
"The respondent knew very well about the pendency of the case against him and it is not uncommon to see that witnesses turned hostile. In the aforesaid circumstance, it cannot be said to be case of clear acquittal, in criminal case, he was given benefit of doubt not acquitted because the case against him was found to be false. Thus, due to such acquittal appointment could not have followed as a matter of course as observed by the Division Bench of the High Court"