Acquittal on technical grounds is 'Honourable Acquittal'

>>> The employees often face dilemma if criminal charges that are deemed as a case of ‘Moral Turpitude’ are pressed against them, would they be entitled for job and employment?

The employer’s cite their own internal and service rules to deny employment and/or reinstatement, to employee that is booked on criminal charges and moral turpitude.

More so is the case with ‘Uniformed Services’ that demand persons of high character.

The employers claim that if the witnesses have turned hostile then it is acquittal on technical grounds and this is not a valid reason to accept the candidate for job and/or employee, in employment.

The employers declare that acquittal on ‘technical grounds’ is not ‘honourable acquittal’.

The employer press that nothing less than ‘Honourable Acquittal’by court of law is acceptable to take the charged employee back in employment.

>>> Once the allegation against the person could not be established by evidence, say if the witnesses turned hostile, it cannot be said that the acquittal was on some technical grounds.

Acquittal in a criminal case, for want of evidence is an acquittal on merit.

There is no provision for ‘Honourable Acquittal’in criminal trial as per criminal jurisprudence.

Thus acquittal in such case, on technical grounds is ‘honourable acquittal’.

Therefore a duly selected candidate cannot be denied his right of appointment to a post merely on the ground that his acquittal was on technical grounds and thus on ‘Honourable’.

>>> Acquittal in a criminal case for want of evidence is an acquittal on merit.

The state government in the recent case was of the view that person's acquittal in a murder case was on technical grounds and not "honourable acquittal" because all the witnesses had turned hostile.

Therefore the person was not allowed to join the state police even after his acquittal in a murder case.

While the court has held that, the moment a criminal charge fails in a court of law, the person would be deemed to be acquitted of the blame, and that there are no terms like 'honourable acquittal' and 'technical acquittal' of an accused.

Once a person is acquitted by the court in any criminal charges, including murder, one is fully entitled to join uniformed service, the court has observed.

>>> In July 2008, Haryana police had advertised for 5,456 posts for recruitment of general duty constables. The petitioner was selected after qualifying all the stages of the recruitment.

However, during the selection process, he was booked in a murder case in December 2010 along with other persons at Safidon police station in Jind. He faced the trial and was finally acquitted by the session’s court of Jind in December 2011.

The result of the selection board was declared after the judgment of acquittal. However, the state police in February 2012, denied Pawan to join the force on public interest and citing DGP's instructions. Aggrieved by the police orders, the petitioner had approached HC pleading that he couldn't be deprived of his vested right of appointment to the post merely on the ground that he stood trial in a criminal case.

State counsel would state that even though the name of the petitioner was placed in the list of provisionally selected candidates but such selection was subject to verification of character/antecedents. State counsel would refer to the joint written statement filed on behalf of respondents 2 to 4 and would state that the case of the petitioner was examined in the light of instructions issued by the Director General of Police dated 2.7.2007, and dated 13.11.2007, as well as in the light of the judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Delhi Administration v. Sushil Kumar, Kumar decided on 4.10.1996, and, accordingly, a decision has been taken to decline appointment. Passing of the impugned order is sought to be justified by submitting that the purpose and objective of the issuance of the instructions dated 2.7.2007 and 13.11.2007 by the Director General of Police was to restrict the entry of persons of criminal background involved in heinous crimes and offences of moral turpitude. Appointment to the petitioner has been declined on the basis that he was involved in criminal prosecution wherein offence under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code had been cited.

Reliance has also been placed by the learned State counsel upon the judgment dated 1.8.2013 rendered by a Co-ordinate Bench of this Court in Pritam Singh v. State of Haryana and others, (Civil Writ Petition No.12693 of 2012) wherein under identical circumstances and by referring to the instructions dated 2.7.2007 and 13.11.2007, the action of the State Government in declining appointment to the petitioner therein i.e. Pritam Singh had been upheld.

However Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh observed that: Once the allegation which was against the petitioner could not be established by evidence, it cannot be said that the acquittal was on some technical ground. Acquittal in a criminal case for want of evidence is an acquittal on merit. There is no provision for "honourable acquittal" in criminal trial as per criminal jurisprudence. As such, the acquittal of the petitioner has to be viewed as an honourable acquittal and the instructions dated 2.7.2007 and 13.11.2007 ,along with the reply cannot operate so as to deny to him his right of appointment to the post as a duly selected candidate.;

And that: The claim of the petitioner seeking appointment to the post of Constable would also be covered in his favour in the light of a very recent judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in Joginder Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and others, 2015(1) SCT 87

Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh: Mr. Justice TEJINDER SINGH DHINDSA,

Directed Haryana police to issue an appointment letter to Pawan within 30 days, the HC in its April 8 orders also clarified that the acquittal of the petitioner had to be viewed as an honorable acquittal and DGP instructions could not operate.

Punjab-Haryana High Court
Pawan Kumar vs State Of Haryana & Ors on 8 April, 2015
CIVIL WRIT PETITION NO.4568 of 2013

>>> A very recent judgment of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India in Joginder Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh and others, 2015(1) SCT 87…………………..cited by Punjab and Haryana High Court at Chandigarh,shall leave NO doubt in the mind………………………

The appellant, Joginder Singh, who had also applied in the year 1997, was also called in 2001 and was among the 40 candidates who had applied were declared as successful candidates. The appellant was medically examined and was called for an interview as he was found fit for selection to the post of Constable. However, after verification of his antecedents and character from his native village, it was found that he was involved in a case with FIR No. 200 dated 14.04.1998, under the provisions of Sections 148/149/323/325/307 IPC a criminal case was registered at Police Station Sadar Bhiwani. After the trial was conducted by the Additional Sessions Judge, Bhiwani, the appellant was acquitted from the charges levelled against him on 04.10.1999.

The appellant filed Original Application before the CAT, Chandigarh, for issuing a direction to the respondent for issuance of an appointment order in view of his selection to the post in the selection process.

4. The Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh after hearing the parties passed an order dated 12.3.2003, allowing the Original Application of the appellant and directed the respondents to appoint the appellant to the post of Constable within a period of 30 days from the date of receipt of the certified copy of the order.

5. Aggrieved by the order of the CAT, the respondent-Union Territory filed C.W.P. No. 5909 CAT of 2003 before the High Court of Punjab & Haryana at Chandigarh questioning the correctness of the same. The High Court vide its common order dated 24.03.2008 has set aside the order of the CAT and allowed the writ petition.

6.The High Court has opined that the order of the CAT passed in favour of the appellant, suffers from illegality, which cannot be sustained in law and accordingly set aside the same. Hence, this appeal has been preferred by the appellant urging various legal grounds.

7. It is the contention of Mr. Mukesh K. Giri, learned counsel on behalf of the appellant that the appellant was honourably acquitted from the charges in the criminal proceedings initiated against him by the State of Punjab and undisputedly, there is no allegation of concealment of the relevant information to be furnished by the appellant in his application to the respondents.

8. It has been further contended by the learned counsel that a perusal of Rule 12.18 of the Punjab Police Rules, 1934, Vol. II (hereinafter referred to as, "the Rules"), shows that the emphasis is on his freedom or otherwise from conviction, meaning thereby, that the acquittal in criminal case will qualify him for appointment to the post of Constable since he was selected and found fit for the post after due selection process was conducted by the respondents.

10. It has been further contended that there is no material on record to justify the conclusion of the Appointing Authority that the antecedents of the appellant were not up to the mark. Further,there is also no allegation of grave moral turpitude against the appellant for not appointing him as a Constable even though he was selected to the post.

11. On the other hand, it has been contended by Mr. Sangram S. Saron, learned counsel on behalf of the respondents, that the appellant was not honourably acquitted of the offences arising out of the case registered in FIR No. 200 of 14.04.1998, as the eye witnesses of the occurrence had declined to support the prosecution version and they were declared hostile by the Sessions Judge, therefore, the proceedings against the accused-appellant resulted in an acquittal, which cannot be construed as acquittal of the appellant on merit.

12. It has been further contended by the learned counsel on behalf of the respondents that the Senior Superintendent of Police, Chandigarh had observed in the order dated 29.07.2003, that since the post of the Constable is extremely sensitive in nature, considering the fact that the interaction and dealing a Constable with the general public is more than any other member of the force, therefore, utmost care and caution is required to be exercised by the respondents in making appointments to the post of Constables.

13. Further, Rules 12.12, 12.14 and 12.18 of the Rules, have laid down the criteria to be followed by the respondents before making appointments to the post of Constable. The above Rules unequivocally state that clean antecedents and good moral character of a selected candidate is the sine qua non. He/she must fall within the zone of consideration.

14. On the basis of the aforesaid rival legal contentions urged on behalf of both the parties, the following points would arise for our consideration:

  • Whether the denial of the benefit of appointment to the appellant by the High Court is legal and valid in the light of the fact that the appellant was acquitted from the criminal case pending against him.
  • What order?

15. To answer the point no. 1, we must first consider whether the acquittal of the appellant from the criminal case was an honourable acquittal.

16…………………………………………………. Thus, the learned Judge held that the prosecution had miserably failed to prove the charges leveled against the appellant in the criminal proceedings. Therefore, we are in agreement with the findings and judgment of the learned Additional Sessions Judge and are of the opinion that the acquittal of the accused from the criminal case was an honourable acquittal.

17. Further, an acquittal of the appellant is an "honourable" acquittal in every sense and purpose.

Therefore, the appellant should not be deprived from being appointed to the post, in the public employment, by declaring him as unsuitable to the post even though he was honourably acquitted in the criminal case registered against him.

18. Further, undisputedly, there has been no allegation of concealment of the fact that a criminal case was registered against him by the appellant. Thus, the appellant has honestly disclosed in his verification application submitted to the selection authority that there was a criminal case registered against him and that it ended in an acquittal on account of compromise between the parties involved in the criminal case, he cannot be denied an opportunity to qualify for any post including the post of a Constable.

22. Thus, we are of the opinion that the alleged past conduct of the appellant in relation to the criminal case will not debar or disqualify him for the post of the Constable for which he was successfully selected after qualifying the written test, medical test and the interview conducted by the selection authority. Further, as stated by us earlier, there has been no concealment of any relevant fact from the respondents by the appellant. The respondents were thus not justified in denying the said post to the appellant. The conclusion arrived at by them is not cogent and lacks proper application of mind.

23. We therefore, hold that the High Court has committed a grave error both on facts and in law and it has failed to follow the legal principles laid down by this Court in the cases referred to supra and uphold the decision of the CAT. For the foregoing reasons both the appeals succeed and are allowed.

24. Since we have upheld the judgment and order of the CAT, the respondents are directed to comply with the same by issuing appointment letter to the appellants within four weeksfrom the date of receipt of the copy of this order.

JOGINDER SINGH V/S UNION TERRITORY OF CHANDIGARH, decided on Tuesday, November 11, 2014.
[ In the Supreme Court of India, Civil Appeal No. 2325 of 2009 & Civil Appeal No. 10126 of 2014 (Arising Out of SLP (C) No. 30798 of 2008). ]

 

Kumar Doab 
on 04 October 2016
Published in Labour & Service Law
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