CRUX: State of Rajasthan vs Love Kush Meena - The Supreme Court Acquittal Based On Benefit Of Doubt In Serious Crime Cannot Make Candidate Eligible For Public Employment
DATE OF JUDGEMENT: MARCH 24, 2021
JUDGES: JUSTICES S.K. KAUL AND SUBHASH REDDY
ISSUE: Whether the cancellation of appointment of respondent in the Police force on the grounds that he was earlier accused of serious offences and was acquitted by the court on the ground of reasonable doubt because of missing evidence against him is valid or not.
SUMMARY: The Supreme court, while referring to various earlier judgements held that employer could take into consideration earlier case in which accused was acquitted on benefit of doubt in serious crimes during the appointment of the candidate.
1. The present case was brought forward when respondent Love Kush Meena theatre recruitment process of constable in the Rajasthan police services. He was not appointed in the police service because of being tried in a criminal case. The clarification given for this was that although he was acquitted the charges against him were of serious nature and not trivial and the candidate was not acquitted honorably by the court. When he was informed about the denial of appointment in the police service, he approached the Rajasthan High Court and the court allowed has writ petition stating that since no solid evidence connecting the accused to the commission of the offence was found in the court proceedings, he should not be disqualified for appointment post of a constable for his involvement in a criminal case.
2. The respondent was charged under Section 302, 323, 341, and 34 of IPC in the concerned case in which he was ultimately acquitted.
3. The honorable Court in its order also mentioned the circular in which the requirements for appointment were mentioned.
Only those individuals of the following category are found to be eligible to be appointed -
a) Those who are not found guilty in a criminal case.
b) Those who are acquitted by the court.
c) Those who are acquitted or discharged based on compromise.
d) Those who are given benefit under section 12 of probation of offences act.
e) Those individuals who are given benefit under section 15 (1) (a) of Juvenile justice act.
4. In the concerned appeal, after the issuance of notice leave was granted on 27th November 2020 and interim order was passed on 3rd February 2020.
5. The counsel while delivering the judgement also referred to a prior Supreme court judgement in the case of Avtar Singh vs Union of India and Others1 where the court dealt with the conditions arising from such cases in detail and laid down several parameters summarized in paragraph 38 of the judgement.
6. In para 38.4.3 the court laid down that if the acquittal had already been recorded in a case with regards to involvement in offence of serious/heinous nature, the employer may consider all relevant facts available before him and take appropriate decisions as to the appointment of the employee.
7. It was further pointed out that in the case of Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and others vs Pradeep Kumar and another2, the court dealt with the expression "honorable acquittal".
8. The court also referred to the case of Anjali Bhardwaj versus High Court of Madhya Pradesh and others3 in which two judge bench of the supreme court held that the rejection of a candidate would not be set to be unsustainable. The court also held that the please that the deletion of the name would result in stigma against the individual was not sustainable since he already stood acquitted of his charges.
9. The counsel for respondent also referred to a prior judgement of the Supreme Court in the case of Mohammed Imran vs State of Maharashtra and others4 of 12th October 2018 in which the individual had been charged under section 366, 363, and 34 of IPC prior to clearance of the exam, the court held that since employment opportunities in this country are a scares commodity with so much competition and such a large number of aspirants applying there could not be any rhetorical inclination of moral turpitude to deny appointment in judicial services but much would depend on the facts of the case.
10. The court while delivering the judgement held that the view of this quote has varied depending upon the nature of offence charged and the result. Only the acquittal would not suffice but it depends on whether it is a clear and clean acquittal relied upon absence of evidence or is there any reasonable doubt.
11. The judgement in Avtar Singh case sets a landmark for similar cases where it was concluded that in cases of crimes of serious or heinous nature where the acquittal is relied upon benefit of reasonable doubt, that can not necessarily make the candidate eligible.
12. The court also held that with respect to the circular dated on 28 March 2017. Such circulars are very wide in application. However, these circulars have to be right in the context of judicial pronouncements.
13. The court further held that the impugned orders cannot be sustained, and the appellants are well within their rights to have issued the order dated on 23rd May 2017.
14. The court ultimately held that the appeal is allowed, and the above-mentioned judgement of the division bench dated on 16th July 2019 and the judgement of single judge dated on 14th May 2018 are set aside leaving the parties to bear their own costs.
The present case brought forward when Love Kush Meena was booked under offences of Section 302, 323, 341, and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. However, he was acquitted on the grounds of benefit of doubt as there was no solid evidence against him.
Later, He cleared the examination for Rajasthan Police Department and was supposed to be appointed as constable in the police service. But he was denied appointment on the grounds that he was earlier convicted of serious and heinous offences and was only acquitted on grounds of reasonable doubt because of lack of evidence. When Love Kush Meena appeal against the rejection order, the court ruled in his favor. But later the State (state of Rajasthan) move to the supreme court for the resolution of this matter.
The supreme court while referring to various judgements and carefully analyzing the facts of the case held that the employer is well within his rights to deny the appointment based on a previous case where the candidate was accused of serious and heinous crimes and was only acquitted based on benefit of reasonable doubt because of lack of rock-hard evidence against him in the matter.
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