Read Judgment: PAWAN KUMAR Vs. UNION OF INDIA AND ANR
New Delhi, May 04, 2022: Ordering reinstatement of the appellant-employee engaged with the Railway Protection Force, the Supreme Court has held that by mere suppression of material/false information regardless of the fact if any conviction or acquittal has been recorded, the employee/recruit is not to be discharged/terminated axiomatically from service just by a stroke of pen
The Division Bench of Justice Ajay Rastogi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna opined that an employee who has suppressed the material information or has made false declaration indeed has no unfettered right of seeking appointment or continuity in service, but at least has a right not to be dealt with arbitrarily and power has to be judiciously exercised by the competent authority in a reasonable manner with objectivity having due regard to the facts of the case on hand.
The present appeal was instituted against the judgment and order passed by the Delhi High Court dated November 17, 2015, whereby the High Court upheld the order of discharge dated April 24, 2015 taking recourse to clause 9 (f) of the employment notice no.1/2011 dated February 27 , 2011 read with Rule 67.2 of Railway Protection Rules, 1987.
The facts in brief were that the notice for appointment to the post of constable in the Railway Protection Force was published on February 27, 2011. The appellant as being eligible submitted the application form and participated in the selection process and after qualifying the written examination and the physical efficiency test, the appellant was sent for training. However, while the appellant was undergoing training, he was discharged by an order dated April 24, 2015 by invocation of clause 9 (f) of the employment notice and Rule 67.2 of the RPF Rules, 1987.
The same was assailed before the Delhi High Court by way of writ petition. The reason behind the discharge order was that a case was registered against the appellant in the past under Sections 148/149/ 323/ 506/ 356 of the IPC. However, the appellant was acquitted by the competent Court of jurisdiction dated August 12, 2011 as he was falsely implicated in the case.
It was the case of the respondent that the appellant did not reveal about the same when he filled the attestation form on May 27, 2014. In pursuance of such suppression of this information/ false declaration in the verification form, the High Court dismissed the writ petition by the impugned judgment dated November 17, 2015 and it was this impugned judgment that was assailed by the appellant in the form of present appeal.
The Apex Court after hearing the submissions of both the parties at length, observed that it was an undisputed fact that at the time of filling of application form by the appellant, there was no suppression of relevant information or submission of false information at that point of time. It was further observed that it is true that the candidate who intends to participate in the selection process is always required to furnish correct information pertaining to his character and antecedents in the verification/ attestation form before and after induction into service.
However, it was also observed by the Top Court that it is also equally true that the person who has suppressed the material information or has made false declaration indeed has no unfettered right of seeking appointment or continuity in service, but at least has a right not to be dealt with arbitrarily and power has to be judiciously exercised by the competent authority in a reasonable manner with objectivity having due regard to the facts of the case on hand. In addition to this, it was observed that yardstick/standard which has to be applied with regard to adjudging suitability of the incumbent always depends upon the nature of post, nature of duties, effect of suppression over suitability to be considered by the authority on due diligence of various aspects but no hard and fast rule of thumb can be laid down in this regard.
Reliance was placed on the judgment of this Court in Avtar Singh v. Union of India, wherein a three judge Bench of this Court laid down guidelines to deal with the cases wherein there is suppression of material information or disclosure of false information.
Through the guidelines enunciated by this Court, it was deduced that in the instant case the mere suppression of material/ false information irrespective of the fact that there was conviction or acquittal, the employee/ recruit was not to be discharged from service just by stroke of pen.
The Bench said, “…by mere suppression of material/false information regardless of the fact whether there is a conviction or acquittal has been recorded, the employee/recruit is not to be discharged/terminated axiomatically from service just by a stroke of pen. At the same time, the effect of suppression of material/false information involving in a criminal case, if any, is left for the employer to consider all the relevant facts and circumstances available as to antecedents and keeping in view the objective criteria and the relevant service rules into consideration, while taking appropriate decision regarding continuance/suitability of the employee into service. What is being noticed by this Court is that mere suppression of material/false information in a given case does not mean that the employer can arbitrarily discharge/terminate the employee from service.”
Thus, in the present case, the Court opined that the order of discharge dated April 24, 2015 was passed in a mechanical manner without application of mind. It was also observed that the authority failed to consider the scope and ambit of Rule 52 of Rules 1987 wherein it is stated that the authority shall after verification of the character/ antecedents of the incumbent should decide if the incumbent is suitable to become the part of the force or not.
Accordingly, the appeal was allowed in the instant case. The impugned judgment of the High Court and the orders of discharge dated April 24, 2015 and December 23, 2021 were quashed and set aside. Further directions were issued that the appellant would be entitled to receive the beneficiaries arising out of service, however would not be entitled for the arrears of the salary for the period he did not serve the post.