Read Judgment: Union of India & Others vs. Methu Meda

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, October 7, 2021: The Supreme Court has held that if a person is acquitted giving him the benefit of doubt, from the charge of an offence involving moral turpitude or because the witnesses turned hostile, it would not automatically entitle him for the employment, that too in disciplined force. 

A Division Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice J.K. Maheshwari observed that the employer is having a right to consider the candidature in terms of the circulars issued by the Screening Committee and mere disclosure of the offences alleged and the result of the Trial is not sufficient. 

In the said situation, the employer cannot be compelled to give appointment to the candidate, added the Bench.

The background of the case was that the respondent (Methu Meda) was found involved in an offence of kidnapping of Nilesh for demand of ransom. Accordingly, an FIR was registered against him u/s 347/327/323/506 (Part II) and 364A IPC. The Sessions Court however, acquitted him for the said charge because the complainant, who was abducted, turned hostile in the Court. 

Thereafter, respondent applied for the post of Constable in Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and got selected through the Staff Selection Commission (SSC). The respondent, while submitting the attestation form, specified the registration of criminal case and acquittal from the charges in a trial by the competent Court.

As the offer of appointment was conditional, therefore, in terms of the CISF Circular No. E EG7023/TRG.SEC/ADM.I/CIRCULARS/20101157 dated March 31, 2010, the respondent was not allowed to join training. 

Also, in furtherance of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs for consideration of the cases of the candidates against whom criminal cases were registered or tried by the courts, the case of the respondent was referred to AIG(L&R), CISF Hqrs, New Delhi, wherein the Standing Screening Committee passed an Order that respondent was not eligible for appointment.

Questioning the validity of the said action and asking for consequential reliefs, the respondent approached the High Court, whereby an Order was passed for sending the respondent on training along with entitlement to all consequential benefits including seniority, notional fixation of salary etc. but back wages were denied. 

The counsel for the appellant (CISF) contended that until the respondent is honourably acquitted from the charge involving moral turpitude and the decision of the Screening Committee is not passed mala fide, interference in such decision is not warranted. 

The counsel also argued that merely making a disclosure of the criminal case in the attestation form is not sufficient, and in view of involvement of the respondent in heinous offences including the offences u/s 327/347/364A IPC, he would not be entitled for appointment until honourably acquitted.

After considering the arguments, the Top Court noted that the expressions ‘honourable acquittal’, ‘acquitted of blame’ and ‘fully acquitted’ are unknown to the Code of Criminal Procedure or the Indian Penal Code, and rather it has been developed by judicial pronouncements. 

If the acquittal is directed by the court on consideration of facts and material evidence on record with the finding of false implication or the finding that the guilt had not been proved, accepting the explanation of accused as just, it be treated as honourable acquittal, added the Court. 

Quoting the decision in case of Avtar Singh vs. Union of India and Others , the Apex Court observed that the employer is having the right to consider the suitability of the candidate as per the Government Orders/Instructions/Rules at the time of taking the decision for induction of the candidate in employment. 

Acquittal on technical ground in respect of the offences of heinous/serious nature, which is not a clean acquittal, the employer may have a right to consider all relevant facts available as to the antecedents, and may take appropriate decision as to the continuance of the employee, added the Court. 

The Apex Court also clarified that even in case, truthful declaration regarding concluded trial has been made by the employee, still the employer has the right to consider antecedents and cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate. 

Further, the Apex Court opined that disclosure of involvement in criminal case in the application/attestation form is an essential requirement and the respondents should not, therefore, expect to score any brownie points because of this disclosure. 

Hence, the Orders passed by the High Court was set aside and the appeal came to be allowed in favour of the Standing Committee, as, only after seeking instructions from the headquarter, the Standing Committee had taken the decision that because of acquittal giving benefit of doubt, the respondent was not considered eligible for appointment in CISF.

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