DATE: 24th March, 2021
SUBJECT: In the following judgment, the Supreme Court of India is dealing with the issue of eligibility in public employment for those persons who have been acquitted from the charges of heinous crimes on the basis of benefit of doubt.
1. In the present case, the state of Rajasthan has filed an appeal before the Supreme Court of India against the order passed by the division bench which held that the respondent in the present is not disentitled for the appointment of post of constable as no cogent evidence was produced which connected him to the crime.
2. The respondent was charged with the commission of offence u/s 302, 323, 341 and 34. The matter has its genesis back in 2008 when the respondent along with three other people went for tilling a disputed field in a tractor and were stopped by Tofli who was the mausi of the complainant. The tractor was run over Tofli by the driver resulting in her death.
3. The complainant and three other people were beaten and stabbed with knife by the respondent and other three accused. A charge sheet was then filed before the court.
4. During the trial the respondents obtained permission for compromise for offence under section 323 and 341IPC. Compromise for offence u/section 302 and 34 could not be made. Due to the compromise the witnesses from the complainant side turned hostile and the court stating that the prosecution failed to prove the case against the accused beyond reasonable doubt acquitted the respondents.
5. In the meanwhile, Love Kush cleared the recruitment exam for the post of constable. However he was found ineligible for the position on account of him being involved in violent activities and not being honourably acquitted by the court. The provision for eligibility was written in para (ix) of the notification for recruitment.
6. A petition against the order was filed before the high court through which the court asked the Superintendent of police to pass fresh order regarding the candidature of the respondent.
7. A fresh order was passed in accordance with the orders of the court which stated that the charges against the respondent were not trivial in nature but were serious offences. The candidate was not honourably acquitted by the court. Thus, he was not eligible.
8. In the second round of proceedings it was observed that the authorities did not apply its mind in accordance with orders of the court and held that benefit of doubt would not disqualify a candidate.
9. The state then filed an appeal before the division bench which also held that since no cogent evidence connecting the accused person to commission of offence was found, the respondent was not disentitled for appointment to the post of a constable.
10. The appellant in the present appeal has placed reliance on Avtar Singh v. Union of India & Ors and contended that acquittal in a criminal case was not conclusive for suitability of the candidate concerned and it could not always be inferred from an acquittal or discharge that the person was falsely involved or has no criminal antecedents. Thus, unless it is an honourable acquittal, the candidate cannot claim the benefit of the case.
11. On the other hand, the respondent contended that the meaning of the term “honourable acquittal” is difficult to define. The respondent placed reliance on Mohammed Imran v. State of Maharashtra & Ors in which it was held that since employment opportunity were a scarce commodity in our country, with large numbers of aspirants applying, there could not be any mechanical or rhetorical incantation of moral turpitude to deny appointment in judicial service simplicitor but much would depend on the facts of a case.
12. It was also contended by the respondent that during the time of the incident the respondent was only 19 years old and has now carried on with his life and has cleared a competitive exam.
ISSUES: The key issue before the court was whether a benefit of doubt resulting in acquittal of the respondent in a case charged under Sections 302,323,341/34 of the Indian Penal Code can create an opportunity for the respondent to join as a constable in the Rajasthan Police service?
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