In the case of State of Rajasthan v. Love Kush Meena [CA 3894 OF 2020], a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R. Subhash Reddy held that an acquittal based on benefit of doubt in serious crime cannot make candidate eligible for public employment.
Such a decision was earlier pronounced by the apex court in the case of Avtar Singh v. Union of India in which the court had outlined the principles to be followed by employers regarding the appointment or rejection of individuals from public services who have either suppressed or produced false information regarding the arrest, pendency of a criminal case or a criminal prosecution of any sort.
The judgement stated, “The judgment in Avtar Singh’s case (supra) on the relevant parameter extracted aforesaid clearly stipulates that where in respect of a heinous or serious nature of crime the acquittal is based on a benefit of reasonable doubt, that cannot make the candidate eligible.”
Love Kush Meena, the respondent in this instant case had cleared the competitive examination that was a requisite for being appointed as a Constable in the state of Rajasthan Police Service.
His appointment for the post was rejected by stating that “Due to serious criminal offence against you, police headquarter in reference to circular No.1687 dated 29.4.1995 and also in compliance with the orders of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No.782/04, you are not being appointed as not found eligible”.
The respondent, being aggrieved approached the Rajasthan High Court and filed a writ petition in this regard. In the High Court, “the Writ Petition was allowed in terms of the judgment dated 11.11.2016, remitting the matter back to the respondent- Superintendent of Police, Udaipur for passing a fresh appropriate order with regard to the candidature of the respondent in accordance with law within a period of three months from the date of receipt of the order and consequences would follow.”
The learned counsel for the State in the apex Court referred to the judgement in the case of Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Ors., the judgement pronounced by the three judge bench was summarised as:
(a) “The employer shall take into consideration the government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to the employee, at the time of taking the decision;
(b) If acquittal had already been recorded in a case involving moral turpitude or offence of
heinous/serious nature, on technical ground and it is not a case of clean acquittal, or benefit of
reasonable doubt has been given, the employer may consider all relevant facts available as to
antecedents, and may take appropriate decision as to the continuance of the employee.”
The respondent, who was the co-accused in case where a woman was run over by a tractor while the respondents and his accomplices were riding on a tractor to till a disputed land.
The counsel for the respondent brought to the attention of the Court “the aspect of there being a time lapse between the alleged offence and the recruitment process was emphasised to contend that the respondent herein was about 19 years of age when the incident occurred and had now carried his life further by being successful in a competitive examination some years down the line.”
The Court observed, “The mere fact of an acquittal would not suffice but rather it would depend on whether it is a clean acquittal based on total absence of evidence or in
the criminal jurisprudence requiring the case to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, that parameter having not been met, benefit of doubt has been granted to the accused. No
doubt, in that facts of the present case, the person who ran the tractor over the deceased lady was one of the other co-accused but the role assigned to the others including the respondent herein was not of a mere bystander or being present at site. The attack with knives was alleged against all the other co-accused including the respondent.”
On that account, the Court held that “the impugned orders cannot be sustained and the appellants are well within their rights to have issued the order” and that “the appeal is allowed and the impugned judgment of the Division Bench dated 16.07.2019 and learned Single Judge dated 14.05.2018 are set aside leaving the parties to bear their own costs.”
WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ABOUT THE SUPREME COURT’S VIEW REGARDING THE APPOINTMENT OF SUCH ACQUITTED INDIVIDUALS? DO LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS BELOW!