(Prayer: Appeal filed under Clause 15 of the Letters Patent against the order dated 11.1.2019 made in W.P.No.7957 of 2013.)
Chief Justice A.P. Sahi,
1. Heard learned Government Pleader, who prays that the matter can be heard with the assistance of learned Additional Advocate General.
2. We are not inclined to grant the indulgence, for the simple reason that the issue involved in this case is squarely covered by a recent Division Bench judgment of this Court in the case of C.Surendhar v. The Director General of Police, Chennai and others, 2019 (6) CTC 465 : MANU/TN/7843/2019.
3. The learned Single Judge, in the impugned judgment, arrived at a conclusion that since the respondent/petitioner had been acquitted, he had not suppressed any fact in his application form, inasmuch as the disclosure required was about the pendency of a case.
4. What we find is that, as a matter of fact, during the police verification of the respondent/petitioner, he was further called upon to inform the authorities as to whether he was “involved in a criminal case or not”. The respondent/petitioner, admittedly, again gave an information by endorsing the word “no” and consequently, the authorities took this to be a suppression of fact.
5. From the facts of the present case, it is clear that the respondent/petitioner had been acquitted prior to the filling up of the application form and therefore, he cannot be said to have suppressed any information, keeping in view the terms of the application form as recorded by the learned Single Judge. However, during the verification, correct information does not appear to have been tendered by the respondent/petitioner.
6. Learned counsel, Shri Balan Haridas, appearing for the respondent/petitioner submits that since the respondent/petitioner was acquitted prior to filling up of the application form, he endorsed in the application form that no case was pending against him and therefore, the respondent/petitioner never intended to suppress any fact.
7. We have considered the said aspect and we find that the Division Bench judgment in the case of C.Surendhar (supra) has taken care of this aspect as well, where it has been held that for the purpose of verifying the antecedents of a candidate, the employer can make an enquiry and during such enquiry, if any such information is found to have been suppressed, an appropriate action can be taken.
8. However, while proceeding to deal with this issue, the Division Bench also held as follows in paragraphs (32) to (34):
“32. However, the march of law does not rest there. The issues raised came to be considered later on and as per the judgments that have been cited at the bar, we find that they have been settled to the effect that the acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the suitability of a candidate for a particular post. The antecedents of a candidate have to be verified and more particularly, in a case where it is a matter of Uniformed Service of the State Police. The judgments that have been cited at the bar are as follows:
(i) Avtar Singh v. Union of India and others, reported in MANU/SC/0803/2016 : (2016) 8 SCC 471;
(ii) Vithal Waman Shelke v. The High Court of Bombay, reported in MANU/MH/2129/2016 : 2017 (4) BomCR 145;
(iii) Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and others v. Pradeep Kumar and another, reported in MANU/SC/0007/2018 : (2018) 1 SCC 797;
(iv) Ashutosh Pawar v. High Court of Madhya Pradesh, reported in MANU/MP/0002/2018 : 2018 (1) CTC 353;
(v) State of Madhya Pradesh and others v. Abhijit Singh Pawar, reported in MANU/SC/1332/2018 : (2018) 18 SCC 733; and
(vi) V. Jayavarthanan v. The Member Secretary, Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board and others, reported in MANU/TN/6694/2018 : 2018 5 LW 150.
33. The question on merits in the present case, however, takes a different turn inasmuch as the order impugned that seeks to disqualify and make the appellant ineligible for engagement, rests on the finding that the appellant had not been honourably acquitted, and it was only a benefit of doubt on the basis whereof the acquittal judgment was delivered in favour of the appellant. The question is as to the interpretation of Rule 13(e) read with the Explanations and in our opinion, the crucial word which has to be taken into consideration to be read with the Explanation is "involvement". The word "involvement", therefore, is the guiding factor inasmuch as the Rule clearly provides for a declaration by the candidate as to whether "he was involved in a criminal case or not".
34. The next question is whether such involvement would necessary lead to the conclusion for the Appointing Authority to hold as to whether he should be selected and appointed for the services or not. Involvement without knowledge is also a factor that can eclipse any disadvantage or prospective impediment in certain circumstances, as explained by the Apex Court in the case of M. Manohar Reddy and another v. Union of India and others, reported in MANU/SC/0086/2013 : (2013) 3 SCC 99. Whether the fact or information unknowingly withheld is at all a material fact, is a matter of assessment on the peculiarity of the material and it's impact to be judiciously and objectively assessed by the employer without any prejudice or preconceived notions to rule out any possibility of malice or pure subjectivity in the decision making process. It is here that a play in the joints has to be given to the employer and unless such a latitude is given, it will be injuncting the authority from exercising its discretion to engage a person suitable for the post. We, therefore, find that an assessment has to be made by the Appointing Authority as to whether the involvement of a candidate in a criminal case would ultimately lead to the conclusion that his engagement would be detrimental for the nature of the employment for which he is being engaged. This may involve a bit of subjectivity, but the material on record has to receive an objective consideration. The question as to whether a person was involved in a case of violating a mere traffic rule or was involved in a heinous offence would obviously weigh with the employer to assess as to whether his engagement would otherwise be sustainable or be detrimental for recruitment in a Uniformed Police Force or not. We, therefore, leave that open to the authority concerned for an independent assessment. But, on the facts of the present case, we find that the authority has simply rested its decision on the finding that the appellant did not deserve to be engaged on account of not h
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aving been honourably acquitted. Whether the fact of his involvement was such that this inference could be justified does not appear to have been discussed in the impugned order. To this extent, we accept the argument of the learned counsel for the appellant.” 9. Accordingly, applying the law as laid down in the case of C.Surendhar (supra), we modify the impugned judgment dated 11.1.2019 and dispose of this appeal in terms of the judgment in the case of C.Surendhar (supra), as observed herein above. The appellants may take an appropriate decision within eight weeks from the date of production of a copy of this order. The appeal is, accordingly, partly allowed. No costs. Consequently, C.M.P.No.4704 of 2020 is closed.