(Prayer: Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying for issuance ofa Writ of Certiorarified Mandamus, call for the records in Na.Ka.No.A3/11758/2012 dated 24.01.2013 issued by the second respondent and quash the same and consequently direct the respondents to consider the petitioner for the appointment to the post of Grade II constable for the year 2012.
1. The order of non selection issued by the second respondent in proceedings dated 24.01.2013 is under challenge in this writ petition.
2. Pursuant to the recruitment notification issued for selection to the post of Grade II constable in Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board, the writ petitioner had submitted his application. Accordingly, he had participated in the written examination held on 24.06.2012. The writ petitioner had secured 52 marks and he was called for physical examination. The writ petitioner had completed successfully his physical verification, endurance test and thereafter medical examination test. At the time of verification of antecedents, the respondents found that a criminal case was pending against the writ petitioner in C.C.No.124 of 2012, on the file of the learned Judicial Magistrate No.I, Sivagangai.
3. The learned counsel appearing for the writ petitioner states that the criminal case was relating to the family dispute and in fact the writ petitioner was acquitted from the criminal charges. Thus, his case ought to have been considered by the respondents for selection to the post of Grade II Police Constable.
4. The learned Special Government Pleader appearing on behalf of the respondents opposed the contention by stating that the writ petitioner had participated in the process of selection and successfully completed his written examination. However, on investigation it was found that the writ petitioner had suppressed the material fact in relation to the pendency of the criminal case. In this regard, the learned Special Government Pleader produced the original file in relation to the application submitted by the writ petitioner. In column 29 of the application, a question is asked, Whether any criminal case is pending against you?, the writ petitioner had marked as 'No'. In column 29 (A), the status of the criminal case is sought for, if a case is registered. The writ petitioner has not filled the column at all and left it blank. Thus, it is clear that the writ petitioner had intentionally suppressed the fact in relation to the pendency of the criminal case against him. When the writ petitioner had filled in the declaration form, no criminal case is pending against him and subsequently the authorities found that the criminal case is pending against the writ petitioner. Thus, this Court is of an opinion that the writ petitioner had suppressed the vital material fact and therefore, the non-selection of the writ petitioner is in accordance with law and there is no infirmity as such.
5. The recruitment to the post of Grade II Police Constable, which is a uniformed service, verification of character and antecedents, in view of the fact that it is a disciplined force. When the writ petitioner had suppressed the very material fact that the criminal case pending against him, the order of rejection passed by the respondents are certainly in accordance with the legal principles settled in respect of the selection of candidates for Uniformed Service. In number of judgments, the Hon'ble Apex Court also emphasized that the candidates, who have suppressed the material fact in the application deserves no consideration at all. In the recent case of UNION TERRITORY, CHANDIGARH ADMINISTRATION AND OTHERS. Versus PRADEEP KUMAR AND ANOTHER MADE IN CIVIL APPEAL NO. 68 OF 2018, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India discussed the legal principles and laid down the principles as under:
10. The acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the suitability of the candidates in the concerned post. If a person Page No. 7 of 15 is acquitted or discharged, it cannot always be inferred that he was falsely involved or he had no criminal antecedents. Unless it is an honourable acquittal, the candidate cannot claim the benefit of the case. What is honourable acquittal, was considered by this Court in Deputy Inspector General of Police and Another v. S. Samuthiram (2013) 1 SCC 598, in which this Court held as under:-
"24. The meaning of the expression 'honourable acquittal' came up for consideration before this Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal (1994) 1 SCC 541. In that case, this Court has considered the impact of Regulation 46(4) dealing with honourable acquittal by a criminal court on the disciplinary proceedings. In that context, this Court held that the mere acquittal does not entitle an employee to reinstatement in service, the acquittal, it was held, has to be honourable. The expressions 'honourable acquittal', 'acquitted of blame', 'fully exonerated' are unknown to the Code of Criminal Procedure or the Penal Code, which are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is difficult to define precisely what is meant by the expression 'honourably acquitted'. When the accused is acquitted after full consideration of prosecution evidence and that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the charges levelled against the accused, it can possibly be said that the accused was honourably acquitted."
11. Entering into the police service required a candidate to be of good character, integrity and clean antecedents. In Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and Another v. Mehar Singh (2013) 7 SCC 685, the respondent was acquitted based on the compromise. This Court held that even though Page No. 8 of 15 acquittal was based on compromise, it is still open to the Screening Committee to examine the suitability of the candidate and take a decision. Emphasizing upon the importance of character and integrity required for joining police force/discipline force, in Mehar Singh case, this Court held as under:-
"23. A careful perusal of the policy leads us to conclude that the Screening Committee would be entitled to keep persons involved in grave cases of moral turpitude out of the police force even if they are acquitted or discharged if it feels that the acquittal or discharge is on technical grounds or not honourable. The Screening Committee will be within its rights to cancel the candidature of a candidate if it finds that the acquittal is based on some serious flaw in the conduct of the prosecution case or is the result of material witnesses turning hostile. It is only experienced officers of the Screening Committee who will be able to judge whether the acquitted or discharged candidate is likely to revert to similar activities in future with more strength and vigour, if appointed, to the post in a police force. The Screening Committee will have to consider the nature and extent of such person’s involvement in the crime and his propensity of becoming a cause for worsening the law and order situation rather than maintaining it. In our opinion, this policy framed by the Delhi Police does not merit any interference from this Court as its object appears to be to ensure that only persons with impeccable character enter the police force.
24. We find no substance in the contention that by cancelling the respondents’ candidature, the Screening Committee has overreached the judgments of the criminal court. We are aware that the question of co-relation between a criminal case and a departmental enquiry does not directly arise here, but, support can be drawn from the principles laid down by this Court in connection with it because the issue involved is somewhat identical, namely, whether to allow a person with doubtful integrity to work in the department. While the standard of proof in a criminal Page No. 9 of 15 case is the proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the proof in a departmental proceeding is preponderance of probabilities. Quite often criminal cases end in acquittal because witnesses turn hostile. Such acquittals are not acquittals on merit. An acquittal based on benefit of doubt would not stand on a par with a clean acquittal on merit after a full-fledged trial, where there is no indication of the witnesses being won over. In R.P. Kapur v. Union of India AIR 1964 SC 787 this Court has taken a view that departmental proceedings can proceed even though a person is acquitted when the acquittal is other than honourable.
25. The expression 'honourable acquittal' was considered by this Court in S. Samuthiram (2013) 1 SCC 598. In that case this Court was concerned with a situation where disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a police officer. Criminal case was pending against him under Section 509 IPC and under Section 4 of the Eve-Teasing Act. He was acquitted in that case because of the non-examination of key witnesses. There was a serious flaw in the conduct of the criminal case. Two material witnesses turned hostile. Referring to the judgment of this Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal (1994) 1 SCC 541, where in somewhat similar fact situation, this Court upheld a bank’s action of refusing to reinstate an employee in service on the ground that in the criminal case he was acquitted by giving him benefit of doubt and, therefore, it was not an honourable acquittal, this Court held that the High Court was not justified in setting aside the punishment imposed in the departmental proceedings. This Court observed that the expressions 'honourable acquittal', 'acquitted of blame' and 'fully exonerated' are unknown to the Criminal Procedure Code or the Penal Code. They are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is difficult to define what is meant by the expression 'honourably acquitted'. This Court expressed that when the accused is acquitted after full consideration of the prosecution case and the prosecution miserably fails to prove the charges levelled against the accused, it can possibly be said that the accused was honourably acquitted.
33. So far as respondent Mehar Singh is concerned, his case appears to have been compromised. It was urged that acquittal recorded pursuant to a compromise should not be Page No. 10 of 15 treated as a disqualification because that will frustrate the purpose of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. We see no merit in this submission. Compromises or settlements have to be encouraged to bring about peaceful and amiable atmosphere in the society by according a quietus to disputes. They have to be encouraged also to reduce arrears of cases and save the litigants from the agony of pending litigation. But these considerations cannot be brought in here. In order to maintain integrity and high standard of police force, the Screening Committee may decline to take cognizance of a compromise, if it appears to it to be dubious. The Screening Committee cannot be faulted for that.
35. The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the great responsibility of maintaining law and order and public order in the society. People repose great faith and confidence in it. It must be worthy of that confidence. A candidate wishing to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude. He must have impeccable character and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not fit in this category. Even if he is acquitted or discharged in the criminal case, that acquittal or discharge order will have to be examined to see whether he has been completely exonerated in the case because even a possibility of his taking to the life of crimes poses a threat to the discipline of the police force. The Standing Order, therefore, has entrusted the task of taking decisions in these matters to the Screening Committee. The decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is mala fide. In recent times, the image of the police force is tarnished. Instances of police personnel behaving in a wayward manner by misusing power are in public domain and are a matter of concern. The reputation of the police force has taken a beating. In such a situation, we would not like to dilute the importance and efficacy of a mechanism like the Screening Committee created by the Delhi Police to ensure that persons who are likely to erode its credibility do not enter the police force. At the same time, the Screening Committee must be alive to the importance of the trust reposed in it and must treat all candidates with an even hand."
The same principle was reiterated in State of Madhya Pradesh and Others v. Parvez Khan (2015) 2 SCC 591.
12. While considering the question of suppression of relevant information or false information in regard to criminal prosecution, arrest or pendency of criminal case(s) against the candidate, in Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others (2016) 8 SCC 471, three-Judges Bench of this Court summarized the conclusion in para (38). As per the said decision in para (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."
Please Login To View The Full Judgment!
/>13. It is thus well settled that an acquittal in a criminal case does not automatically entitle him for appointment to the post. Still it is open to the employer to consider the character and antecedents and examine, whether he is suitable for appointment to the post. From the observations of this Court in Mehar Singh and Parvez Khan cases, it is clear that acandidate to be recruited to the police service must be of impeccable character and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not fit in this category. Even if he is acquitted or discharged, it cannot be presumed that he was honourably acquitted/completely exonerated. The decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is shown to be mala fide. The Screening Committee also must be alive to the importance of the trust repose in it and must examine the candidate with utmost character. 6. In a catena of judgments, the constitutional Courts emphasized the act of integrity and high standard of conduct in police force. This being the legal principles followed consistently by the Courts. The impugned order passed is in accordance with law and there is no infirmity as such. 7. This being the factum of the case, no further adjudication is required in respect of the grounds raised in this writ petition. Accordingly, the writ petition stands dismissed. However, there shall be no order as to costs. Consequently, the connected miscellaneous petition is closed.