21 March 2022 4:22 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has held that suppression of information relating to a criminal case by a candidate can be ignored in certain situations.The Court observed that competent authority while dealing with the case related to suppression of material information by a candidate in the selection process has to consider nature of post, nature of duties, impact of suppression on suitability and that...
The Supreme Court has held that suppression of information relating to a criminal case by a candidate can be ignored in certain situations.
The Court observed that competent authority while dealing with the case related to suppression of material information by a candidate in the selection process has to consider nature of post, nature of duties, impact of suppression on suitability and that the power has to be exercised with due diligence.
The bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and AS Oka made this observation while considering civil appeal assailing Allahabad High Court's order by which the High Court had set aside Single Judge's order of directing the Northern Railway to reconsider appellant's case with regards to his appointment in the Railway Protection Force.
The Court granted relief to the appellant, noting that the criminal case suppressed by him happened when he was a juvenile and that he was discharged from that case too.
Principles related to suppression of material facts
The Court noted that the judgment in Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others 2016(8) SCC 471 had summarized the principles in relation to the course to be adopted with respect to suppression of material information by candidates as follows :
"38.1. 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.
38.2. 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.
38.3. The employer shall take into consideration the government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to the employee, at the time of taking the decision.
38.4.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 recourses appropriate to the case may be adopted:
38.4.1. 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.
38.4.2. Where conviction has been recorded in case which is not trivial in nature, employer may cancel candidature or terminate services of the employee.
38.4.3. 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.
38.5.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.
38.6. 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.
38.7. 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.
38.8. 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.
38.9. 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.
38.10. 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.
38.11.Before a person is held guilty of suppressio veri or suggestio falsi, knowledge of the fact must be attributable to him".
In the light of the above principles, the bench in the instant case (Umesh Chandra Yadav v. The Inspector General And Chief Security Commissioner, R.P.F., Northern Railway, New Delhi & Others), held as follows :
"This cannot be disputed that the candidate who intends to participate in the selection process is required to furnish correct information relating to his character and antecedents in the verification/attestation form before or after his induction into service. At the same time, it is also true that the person who has suppressed the material information, cannot claim unfettered right of seeking appointment or continuity in service but, at the same time, he has a right not to be dealt with arbitrarily and power has to be exercised in reasonable manner with objectivity having due regard to the facts of case on hand. The yardstick which has to be applied always depends upon the nature of post, nature of duties, impact of suppression on suitability has to be considered by the competent authority considering post/nature of duties/services and power has to be exercised on due diligence of various aspects at the given time and no hard and fast rule of thumb can be laid down in this regard."
The Inspector General And Chief Security Commissioner, R.P.FNorthern Railway published an advertisement on February 23, 2011 for recruiting and selecting constables in Railway Protection Force. The appellant, who was discharged on December 15, 2001 from a case registered against him for allegedly preparing a forged caste certificate, applied for the same got selected and was sent for training by letter dated October 7, 2014. Pursuant thereto, he joined the training center on 1st November 2014. The appellant was shocked when he was served with the Order canceling his appointment by order dated 19th February, 2015 on the premise of non-disclosure of a criminal case being instituted against him in the year 1997.
The appellant challenged the order dated February 119, 2015 before the High Court of Allahabad. The Single Judge on May 6, 2016 after considering the material available on record and also the fact that he was a juvenile when the criminal case was instituted against him in arrived at the conclusion that it was not the case of suppression of material information which may deprive him of his appointment. Relying on the judgment in Ram Kumar Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and Others 2011(14) SCC 709, the Single Judge set aside the order of cancellation dated 19th February, 2015 with a direction to reconsider the case of the appellant afresh in light of the observations made under the judgment dated 20th January, 2016.
On appeal, the Division Bench of the High Court proceeded on a straight jacket formula on the premise that since the fact of criminal case once instituted against him was not disclosed, that appeared to be the material suppression and in consequence thereof set aside the order passed by Single Judge.
Aggrieved, the appellant approached the High Court.
Submission of Counsels
Appearing for the appellant, counsel had submitted that a Court of competent jurisdiction had passed an order of discharge and that the appellant was neither prosecuted or arrested. He further submitted that the information which was tendered by him in reference to clause 12 of the attestation form filled by him, was not a case of misrepresentation or of concealment which led to the cancellation of his appointment by the authorities by an Order dated 19th February, 2015. Reliance was placed by the counsel on the judgment in Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others 2016(8) SCC 471.
Respondent's counsel on the other hand while supporting a finding rendered by the Division Bench submitted that the appellant made material concealment by not disclosing the correct facts in his attestation form. Drawing Court's attention to clause 12, counsel said that particularly, in clause 12 where appellant was specifically asked to indicate as to whether he has ever been arrested or prosecuted and once this fact stands established from the record that a criminal case was instituted against him which he had failed to disclose, and that been the basis for passing the order of cancellation of his order of appointment.
Supreme Court's Analysis
The bench in the judgment authored by Justice Ajay Rastogi to adjudicate on the issue took note of the fact that the appellant was a juvenile when a criminal case was registered against him and when he was discharged.
The Court after relying on the judgement in Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others 2016 (8) SCC 471 then proceeded to say, "This was indisputedly a special circumstance indeed which was not taken into consideration by the authority while passing the order of cancellation of his appointment by order dated 19th February 2015."
With regards to the impugned judgement, the bench said,
"The Division Bench, in the impugned judgment, has proceeded mechanically, without taking note of the fact that a juvenile could not have been entangled in a criminal complaint instituted against him in October 1997 and this fact remained unnoticed by the Division Bench that he was a juvenile when the order of discharge was passed on 15th December, 2001 and almost a decade thereafter, the process of selection came to be initiated by the respondents pursuant to an advertisement dated 23rd February 2011, the seriatim of facts cumulatively indicate that the nature of information which was not disclosed by the appellant, in any manner, could be considered to be a suppression of material information not being bona fidely disclosed in clause 12 of attestation form filled by him. In this regard, the finding which has been recorded by the Division Bench in holding that there was a suppression of material information is unsustainable and deserves to be set aside."
While allowing the appeal, the bench said,
"At the first blush, we were not inclined to grant the appellant consequential benefits as he had not worked after his services came to be terminated on account of cancellation of appointment dated 19th February 2015, but in the present facts and circumstances, when the appellant was never at fault and no one has afforded him a reasonable opportunity to justify and, at the same time, the authorities have also failed to consider that the appellant was a juvenile on the date when the complaint was made and the date when he was discharged by the learned trial Judge by an order dated 15th December, 2001, these peculiar facts were not noticed by the authority while exercising its judicious discretion as to whether the so called alleged suppression at all disentitle the appellant from continuation of service."
Case Title: Umesh Chandra Yadav V. The Inspector General And Chief Security Commissioner, R.P.F., Northern Railway, New Delhi & Others| Civil Appeal No(S). 1964 Of 2022
Coram: Justices Ajay Rastogi and AS Oka
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 300
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