13 Oct 2020 11:46 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has dismissed plea of a District Judge aspirant whose candidature was on the ground of pendency of a criminal case under Section 498A IPC filed by his wife.The mere fact that subsequently after more than a year when the person whose candidature has been cancelled has been acquitted cannot be a ground to turn the clock backward, the bench comprising Justices Ashok...
The Supreme Court has dismissed plea of a District Judge aspirant whose candidature was on the ground of pendency of a criminal case under Section 498A IPC filed by his wife.
The mere fact that subsequently after more than a year when the person whose candidature has been cancelled has been acquitted cannot be a ground to turn the clock backward, the bench comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR Shah observed.
Anil Bhardwaj was declared successful in the Main Examination held for the post of District Judge was called for interview. He also received a communication from the Law and Legislative Department informing that he has been selected for the post of District Judge (Entry Level). Later, an order was issued by the Principal Secretary, Madhya Pradesh, Law and Legislative Department declaring he was ineligible and directing for deletion of his name from the select list. The Madhya Pradesh High Court dismissed his writ petition challenging this order. Thus, he approached the Apex Court.
Before the Apex Court, he submitted that he had disclosed the lodging of FIR against him and has not concealed any fact and he having been selected on merit was entitled to be appointed. It was also contended that, in any case, he could not have been deprived of the employment after acquittal as there was no other material on record to indicate that his antecedent or conduct was not upto the mark.
The court, referring to the proceedings of the Administrative Committee (Higher Judicial Service) and Examination cum-Selection and Appointment Committee, noted that it had taken a resolution that due to pendency of the case under Section 498A, 406-34 IPC on the basis of complaint filed by the wife, the candidate was not considered suitable for being appointed to the post of District Judge. It also noted that on the date when the Committee declared him unsuitable, the criminal case against him was pending. The court referred to Avtar Singh vs. Union of India and others, (2016) 8 SCC 471, in which it was held in the event criminal case is pending and incumbent has not been acquitted employer may well be justified in not appointing such an incumbent. The bench therefore considered the issue whether in view of the subsequent acquittal, his case was required to be reconsidered and he was entitled to be appointed?
In this regard, the bench referred to the decision in Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and others vs. Pradeep Kumar (2018) 1 SCC 797, and observed that the decision of the Screening Committee must be final unless it is mala fide. It said:
"Such decision of the Committee was well within the jurisdiction and power of the Committee and cannot be said to be unsustainable. The mere fact that subsequently after more than a year when the person whose candidature has been cancelled has been acquitted cannot be a ground to turn the clock backward.. The fact that subsequently the appellant was acquitted in the criminal case did not furnish sufficient ground for reconsidering the appellant for appointment on the post
The court also considered another contention that the decision declaring him unsuitable on the ground of pendency of criminal case under Section 498A, 406 IPC was contrary to the guidelines issued by the Government of Madhya Pradesh for character verification, which states that, on the acquittal on merit of the case by the Court, the candidate will be eligible for Government service. While dismissing his appeal, the bench said:
"Clause (viii) on which the reliance is placed contemplates that the candidate who has been acquitted on merit by the Court will be eligible for the Government service. The aforesaid contemplation relates to at the time of character verification. Thus, at the time of character verification, if a candidate is found to be acquitted on merits by the Court, the candidate shall be treated to be eligible for Government Service. 21 The above clause (viii) as quoted above cannot come to the rescue of the appellant who at the time of character verification or at the time of consideration of the case of the appellant by the committee on 18.07.2018 had not been acquitted. Had the appellant in column had mentioned about the acquittal or at the time of character verification it was found that the candidate has been acquitted on merit by the Court, Clause 6(viii) would have been attracted but in the present case the said clause is not attracted since at the time of character verification the appellant had not been acquitted and he was acquitted after more than a year from rejection of his candidature."
Case: ANIL BHARDWAJ vs. HON'BLE HIGH COURT OF MADHYA PRADESH [C.A. NO.3419 of 2020] Coram: Justices Ashok Bhushan and MR ShahCounsel: Sr. Adv R. Venkataramani
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