Fitness For Post

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 05 Feb 2018 10:38:52


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The apex court holds that acquittal in any case automatically does not entitle the candidates for appointment to the post of Constable in Chandigarh Police.


IN THE judgement of the case – Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and Others v. Pradeep Kumar and another, delivered on January 8, 2018, Justice R.Banumathi and Justice U.U. Lalit at the Supreme Court have held that acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the suitability of the candidates for the concerned post.
Unless it is an honourable acquittal, the candidate cannot claim the benefit of the verdict of acquittal in the case.


The apex court has held that acquittal in a case automatically does not entitle the candidates for appointment to the post of Constable in Chandigarh Police.
Further the Court cannot substitute its views for the decision of the Screening Committee. The Court has held that cancellation of candidature of respondents was justified.


In guideline 2(A) (b), it is prescribed that if a candidate has disclosed his involvement in criminal cases in the attestation form then such case will be referred to Screening Committee to assess his suitability for appointment in Chandigarh Police irrespective of the fact that the case is under investigation, trial or decided in conviction or acquittal in the present case, in all the cases of the respondents, the aforesaid situation arises.


On noticing the acquittal of the candidates, the cases of respondents were referred to Screening Committee, which carefully examined the cases of the respondents and the reasoning for their acquittal and the candidature of the respondents were rejected finding them not suitable.
The acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive of the suitability of the candidates in the concerned post. If a person 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.


Entering into the police service required a candidate to be of good character, integrity and clean antecedents.
It is thus well settled that acquittal in a criminal case doest not automatically entitle him for appointment to the post. Still it is open to the employer to consider the antecedents and examine whether he is suitable for appointment to the post.


From the observations in the decisions of the cases –Commissioner of Police, New Delhi v. Mehar Singh 2013 (7)SCC 685 and State of Madhya Pradesh v. Parvez Khan - (2015) 2 SCC 591, it is clear that a candidate to be recruited for 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 reposed in it and must examine the candidate with utmost character.


From the details made available to the Court, it found that the Committee examined each and every case of the respondents and reasoning for their acquittal and taken the decision, while deciding whether a person involved in a criminal case has been acquitted or discharged should be appointed to a post in a police force, nature of offence in which he is involved, whether it was an honourable acquittal or only an extension of benefit of doubt, because of witnesses turning hostile and flaws in the prosecution are the aspects to be considered by the Screening Committee for taking the decision whether the candidate is suitable for the post.


As has been pointed out the Screening Committee examined each and every case and reasoning for their acquittal and took decision that the respondents are not suitable for the post of Constable in Chandigarh Police. The procedure followed is as per Guideline 2(A)(b) and object of such screening is to ensure that only persons with impeccable character enters police force. While so, the court cannot substitute its views for the decision of the Screening Committee.


There are several judgments emphasizing the importance of integrity and high standard of conduct in police force.
As held in Mehar Singh’s case, the decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final, unless it is mala fide. In the case in hand, there is nothing to suggest that the decision of the Screening Committee is mala fide.


The decision of the Screening Committee that the respondents were not suitable for being appointed to the post of Constable does not call for interference. The Tribunal and the HC, in view of the Supreme Court, erred in setting aside the decision of the Screening Committee and the impugned judgement is liable to be set aside.
In the result, The Supreme Court set aside the impugned judgement and disallowed the appeals. The cancellation of candidature of the respondents is upheld.