AFT in a casual & routine manner affirmed dismissal order: SC directs reinstatement of 4 Army personnel in alleged false relationship certificate dispute considering that they didn’t apply as relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen
Justices Bela M. Trivedi & Pankaj Mithal [09-02-2024]




Tulip Kanth


New Delhi, February 12, 2024: The Supreme Court has set aside the dismissal orders four army personnel enrolled under the Unit Headquarters Quota (UHQ) whose services were terminated on the ground of producing fake relationship certificate. The Top Court opined that the Armed Forces Tribunal lost sight of the crucial point of the appellants that they had applied under the general category and not as relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen.


The facts of the case suggested that a large number of candidates including the appellants applied for the enrollment into Army under the Unit Headquarters Quota (UHQ). The appellants were selected and enrolled in the Army by the Maratha Light Infantry Regimental Centre (MLIRC). After they had put in nearly three years of service, a show cause notice was issued to several of them alleging that they had obtained enrollment in the Army either on the basis of the fake sports person certificate or on the basis of false relationship certificate. On consideration of the reply of those persons, the services of about 52 of them were terminated. However, after some litigation, candidates belonging to the category of sportsmen of merit, were all reinstated. In regard to the fake relationship certificate, services of about 20 persons including the appellants were terminated out of which 4 persons had approached the Top Court.


The appellants had preferred these appeals under Section 31 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 before the Top Court contending that the appellants were recruited under the general category and not on priority basis as relatives of any servicemen or ex-servicemen. They had also not produced any relationship certificate and, therefore, they couldn’t be charged for obtaining enrollment/recruitment on the basis of fake relationship certificates. It was their case that the authorities as well as the Tribunal had not considered the explanation of the appellants.


The defence of the respondents was that the enrollment/recruitment under the Army Headquarters Quota was only for the relatives of the servicemen/ ex- servicemen and there was no general category in which the appellants could have been recruited. It was also contended that the appellants were taking the above grounds of enrollment/recruitment under general category and of non-production of relationship certificate as an afterthought as on identical plea the sports persons were directed to be reinstated.


The Division Bench of Justice Bela M. Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal noticed that the respondents had relied upon a newspaper clipping which was neither part of the record before the Tribunal or of these appeals but was passed over to the Top Court for the purposes of its perusal. This clipping as appearing in Deccan Herald was not a part of the record and it was not at all appropriate for the Court to consider and rely upon it. It was simply a news item published in the newspaper informing that exercise for enrollment/recruitment under the Unit Headquarters Quota is going to take place without specifically stating that general category candidates who do not have any relationship with servicemen/ex- servicemen are prohibited or barred from applying.


However, the Bench mentioned that the guidelines/instructions for recruitments under the enrollment/recruitment in Paragraph 7 clearly mentioned about open category recruitment. The applications clearly established that the appellants appeared to have applied as a general category candidate(s) against the surplus seats/vacancies remaining unfilled after considering the priority/reserved quota for relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen, etc. In such a situation, when they had not claimed any enrollment/recruitment on the basis of relationship with servicemen/ex-servicemen, obviously there was no occasion for them to submit any relationship certificate.


Moreover, the discharge certificate simply stated that the appellants were dismissed from service under the orders of Commandant for the reason of obtaining enrollment/recruitment by fraudulent means referring to submission of fake relationship certificates. In this certificate or the order of the Commandant, there was no whisper that any inquiry was conducted to ascertain or find out as to whether the appellants had actually produced relationship certificates for the purposes of enrollment/recruitment in the Army. No finding had been recorded by the respondents that the appellants had as of fact, produced such certificates or that their explanation claiming that no such certificates were furnished by them was completely false. The authorities had not dealt with the above explanations/claims of the appellants.


“The Tribunal in a casual and routine manner affirmed the discharge/dismissal order simply holding that the relationship certificates produced by the appellants have been found to be fake even upon verification. The Tribunal also seems to have lost sight of the crucial point of the appellants that they have applied under the general category and not as relatives of servicemen/ex-servicemen. They have not produced the alleged certificate(s) which could be held to be fake. Accordingly, the core issue arising in the matter was missed not only by the authorities concerned but by the Tribunal as well. Thus, the order(s) of discharge/dismissal of the appellants and that of Tribunal stand vitiated for non- consideration of the material aspect”, the Bench said.


The main aspects considered by the Bench were that the recruitment under the Headquarter Quota was not confined to the priority/reserved class rather it was open for general category also to a limited extent. There was no material on record to establish that the appellants had produced any relationship certificate to obtain enrolment. The discharge/dismissal of the appellants from service was vitiated for non-consideration of their specific case that they had actually not produced any relationship certificate for selection/recruitment as they never applied in the reserved category.


The judgments in Ex Sig. Man Kanhaiya Kumar vs. Union of India and Ors. [LQ/SC/2018/24] and S. Muthu Kumaran vs. Union of India and Ors. [LQ/SC/2017/89] had no application in the present case inasmuch as in the said case the fraudulent enrollment in the Army was admitted to the appellants to be on the basis of fake relationship certificate. There was no dispute to the ratio laid down in the above case that the authorities had the power of punishment/dismissal/removal of the candidate in the event the enrollment/recruitment had been obtained by fraudulent means or on the basis of fake relationship certificate.


Thus, allowing the appeal, the Bench set aside the impugned orders of discharge/dismissal and the judgments passed by the Armed Forces Tribunal. The appellants were ordered to be reinstated with all consequential benefits.

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