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The State Of Madhya Pradesh And … vs Abhijit Singh Pawar on 26 November, 2018

1

Reportable

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 11356 OF 2018
(Arising out of SLP(C) No.17404 of 2016)

State of Madhya Pradesh and others ……Appellants

VERSUS

Abhijit Singh Pawar ..…. Respondent

JUDGMENT

Uday Umesh Lalit, J.

1. Leave granted. This appeal challenges correctness of the judgment

and order dated 22.09.2015 passed by the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at

Indore in Writ Appeal No.132 of 2015.

2. In 2012, the Professional Examination Board, Madhya Pradesh invited
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
applications for filling up the posts of Subedars, Platoon Commanders and
MUKESH KUMAR
Date: 2018.11.26
18:06:56 IST
Reason:

Inspectors of Police. Clause 1.13 of the advertisement dealt with character
2

verification of the candidates. True translation of said clause 1.13 along with

Note appended thereto was to the following effect:

“1.13 Appointment: The character verification shall be
carried out about the selected candidates and the appointment
only of the candidates found in the selection list upon finding
them fit in character. The medical examination of the
candidates also shall be conducted. The candidate to be
medically fit for the entitlement of the appointment is also
required.

Note: To save time and for the convenience, the verification
form is sent earlier to the candidates declared fit to sit in the
physical fitness examination, which the candidates have to
submit after filling up and the character and earlier verification
of all the candidates to appear in interview is made. The
candidate who is not selected, his form will not used further.
The candidates should fill up full and correct information in
the character verification form. They should not provide any
false information, incomplete information and semi true
information. They should not conceal any information as well.
Particularly it is required to fill up the correct information in
column no.12. Now according to the new guidelines of
Madhya Pradesh Government regarding character verification,
to give the undertaking to this effect is required that he has not
concealed any fact in the details given by him earlier about the
criminal cases.”

3. The respondent participated in the selection process and as mandated,

tendered an affidavit on 22.12.2012 disclosing following information:

“I affirm on oath that Case No.592/06 under Sections 323,
325, 506, 34 was registered in Police Station Madhav Nagar
against me the deponent. I the deponent myself had come to
the court. I was never arrested. The aforesaid case is pending
in the Court. In addition no criminal record is registered in
3

any police station anywhere in India, nor has the deponent
convicted by the Court in any criminal case.”

4. According to the disclosure, a case registered in the year 2006 was

pending on the date when the affidavit was tendered. However, it appears that

within four days, a compromise was entered into between the original

complainant and the respondent and an application for compounding the

offences was filed under Section 320 Code of Criminal Procedure. True

translation of relevant portions of the proceedings dated 26.12.2012 before the

Judicial Magistrate, First Class, Ujjain, M.P. is as under:

“The case was perused. This case is listed for the
presence of the accused. The accused was taken in judicial
custody. …….

The bond forfeiture amount on behalf of the accused
was deposited in compliance with the order, vide receipt
No.85. The receipt was given to the accused….

At this very stage, Rajiv Rawat submitted an application
for compromise under Section 320(2) Cr.P.C. and expressed
that a compromise has been made between him and the
accused persons so the permission for compounding be
granted. Copy of the application was given to ADPO. The
remaining accused persons with Sashank Advocate are
present. I heard the matter regarding compromise. The case
was perused.

It is clear from perusal that the case being of offences
under Sections 294, 325/34, 323, 506 Part-2, IPC is fit for
compromise. The present complainant is a competent party
for the compromise. Hence, the permission for compounding
can be granted.

4

The parties submitted a deed of compromise, jointly
signed having photographs. The parties were identified by
their counsel. Both the parties have stated that the
compromise was arrived at voluntarily without any fear and
pressure. Hence, the application for compounding was
allowed after verification. As a result of the composition, the
accused persons are acquitted of the charges under Sections
294, 325/34, 323, 506 Part-2 IPC.

The bail bonds of the accused persons are discharged.”

5. The proceedings, thus, indicate that the amount of bond submitted on

the earlier occasion had been forfeited for non-compliance; that the

respondent was taken in judicial custody and that after the compromise was

entered into between the parties, the application for compounding of the

offences was allowed.

6. The respondent was selected in the written examination and was

called for medical examination. Around the same time, his character

verification was also undertaken. After due consideration of character

verification report, the candidature of the respondent was however rejected

vide order dated 19.07.2013 passed by the Additional Director General of

Police (Selection/Recruitment), Police Headquarters, Bhopal. Said order

observed as under:-

“3-B The services of the persons seeking uniform
service/employment comes under the category different from
other services and candidates. The duty of the candidates
selected is to maintain law and order of the State and to protect
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the life and property of the public. The high moral conduct
and not to be involved in the criminal activities is required for
the police service.

3-C According to the principles about the excellent conduct
with the Government in respect of the Government Servants,
the Government Servants should be of high character. Since
the officers of the Police Department are responsible to control
the persons of criminal nature, it is not proper to appoint the
persons of criminal record in public interest.”

7. The respondent being aggrieved, filed Writ Petition No.9412 of 2013

before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Indore challenging the aforesaid

order dated 19.07.2013. A Single Judge of the High Court allowed said writ

petition and directed as under:

“… The petitioner shall be appointed in case his name finds
place in the merit list and is entitled to be appointed as per
merit. The petitioner shall be entitled for all consequential
benefits, except back wages.”

8. The State challenged the decision of the Single Judge by filing Writ

Appeal No.132 of 2015, which challenge was found to be without any merit

by the Division Bench. The view taken by the Single Judge was thus

affirmed by the Division Bench vide its judgment and order dated 22.09.2015

which decision is presently under challenge.

9. Since the respondent, despite being served in the matter had chosen

not to enter appearance, this Court requested Mr. Siddhartha Dave, learned
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Advocate to assist as Amicus Curiae and appear on behalf of the respondent.

We heard Mr. Rajesh Srivastava, learned Advocate for the State and Mr.

Siddhartha Dave, learned Amicus Curiae for the respondent.

10. It was submitted by Mr. Rajesh Srivastava, learned Advocate that in

terms of Rule 12(3) of M.P. Police Executive (Non-Gazetted) Services

Recruitment Rules, 1996, inclusion of a candidate’s name in the list would

not confer any right to appointment and that a candidate had to be found

suitable in all respects before he could be appointed. Relying on the decisions

of this Court in Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and another v. Mehar

Singh1, State of Madhya Pradesh and others v. Parvez Khan2 and Union

Territory, Chandigarh Administration and others v. Pradeep Kumar and

another3 he submitted that the candidature of the respondent was rightly

rejected and there being no allegation of mala fides, no interference with the

decision in question was called for. Mr. Siddhartha Dave, learned Amicus

Curiae, on the other hand, submitted that by virtue of Section 320(8) of

Cr.P.C. composition of an offence would have the effect of an acquittal. He

further submitted that the respondent had not suppressed any information and

he having been acquitted, the High Court was right in accepting his challenge.

1
(2013) 7 SCC 685
2
(2015) 2 SCC 591
3
(2018) 1 SCC 797
7

Mr. Dave further relied upon the decisions of this Court in Avtar Singh v.

Union of India and others4 and In Mohammed Imran v. State of

Maharashtra and others5.

11. In Mehar Singh (supra) the selection in question was for the post of

Constable (Executive). The offences alleged against Mehar Singh were

under Sections 341, 323 and 427 of the IPC. He had arrived at a compromise

with the complainant and in terms of the compromise, Mehar Singh and other

co-accused were acquitted of the offences under Sections 323, 341 and 427 of

the IPC on 30.01.2009. In the selection which was undertaken thereafter, said

Mehar Singh had disclosed the factum regarding his involvement and his

acquittal. His candidature was, however cancelled in terms of the concerned

Standing Order. The challenge raised by him was accepted by the

Administrative Tribunal and the Delhi High Court. But this Court reversed

said decisions and the observations in paragraphs 23, 24, 25, 33 to 35 of the

decision of this Court are quite relevant for the present purposes:-

“ 23. A careful perusal of the policy leads us to conclude that
the Screening Committee would be entitled to keep persons
involved in grave cases of moral turpitude out of the police
force even if they are acquitted or discharged if it feels that the
acquittal or discharge is on technical grounds or not
honourable. The Screening Committee will be within its rights
4
(2016) 8 SCC 471
5
In Civil Appeal No.10571 of 2018, decided on 12.10.2018.

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to cancel the candidature of a candidate if it finds that the
acquittal is based on some serious flaw in the conduct of the
prosecution case or is the result of material witnesses turning
hostile. It is only experienced officers of the Screening
Committee who will be able to judge whether the acquitted or
discharged candidate is likely to revert to similar activities in
future with more strength and vigour, if appointed, to the post
in a police force. The Screening Committee will have to
consider the nature and extent of such person’s involvement in
the crime and his propensity of becoming a cause for
worsening the law and order situation rather than maintaining
it. In our opinion, this policy framed by the Delhi Police does
not merit any interference from this Court as its object appears
to be to ensure that only persons with impeccable character
enter the police force.

24. We find no substance in the contention that by cancelling
the respondents’ candidature, the Screening Committee has
overreached the judgments of the criminal court. We are aware
that the question of co-relation between a criminal case and a
departmental enquiry does not directly arise here, but, support
can be drawn from the principles laid down by this Court in
connection with it because the issue involved is somewhat
identical, namely, whether to allow a person with doubtful
integrity to work in the department. While the standard of
proof in a criminal case is the proof beyond all reasonable
doubt, the proof in a departmental proceeding is
preponderance of probabilities. Quite often criminal cases end
in acquittal because witnesses turn hostile. Such acquittals are
not acquittals on merit. An acquittal based on benefit of doubt
would not stand on a par with a clean acquittal on merit after a
full-fledged trial, where there is no indication of the witnesses
being won over. In R.P. Kapur v. Union of India6 this Court
has taken a view that departmental proceedings can proceed
even though a person is acquitted when the acquittal is other
than honourable.

6

AIR 1964 SC 787
9

25. The expression “honourable acquittal” was considered by
this Court in S. Samuthiram7. In that case this Court was
concerned with a situation where disciplinary proceedings
were initiated against a police officer. Criminal case was
pending against him under Section 509 IPC and under Section
4 of the Eve-Teasing Act. He was acquitted in that case
because of the non-examination of key witnesses. There was a
serious flaw in the conduct of the criminal case. Two material
witnesses turned hostile. Referring to the judgment of this
Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal8, where in somewhat
similar fact situation, this Court upheld a bank’s action of
refusing to reinstate an employee in service on the ground that
in the criminal case he was acquitted by giving him benefit of
doubt and, therefore, it was not an honourable acquittal, this
Court held that the High Court was not justified in setting
aside the punishment imposed in the departmental
proceedings. This Court observed that the expressions
“honourable acquittal”, “acquitted of blame” and “fully
exonerated” are unknown to the Criminal Procedure Code or
the Penal Code. They are coined by judicial pronouncements.
It is difficult to define what is meant by the expression
“honourably acquitted”. This Court expressed that when the
accused is acquitted after full consideration of the prosecution
case and the prosecution miserably fails to prove the charges
levelled against the accused, it can possibly be said that the
accused was honourably acquitted.

33. So far as respondent Mehar Singh is concerned, his case
appears to have been compromised. It was urged that acquittal
recorded pursuant to a compromise should not be treated as a
disqualification because that will frustrate the purpose of the
Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987. We see no merit in this
submission. Compromises or settlements have to be
encouraged to bring about peaceful and amiable atmosphere in
the society by according a quietus to disputes. They have to be
encouraged also to reduce arrears of cases and save the
litigants from the agony of pending litigation. But these
considerations cannot be brought in here. In order to maintain
7
(2013) 1 SCC 598
8
(1994) 1 SCC 541
10

integrity and high standard of police force, the Screening
Committee may decline to take cognizance of a compromise,
if it appears to it to be dubious. The Screening Committee
cannot be faulted for that.

34. The respondents are trying to draw mileage from the fact
that in their application and/or attestation form they have
disclosed their involvement in a criminal case. We do not see
how this fact improves their case. Disclosure of these facts in
the application/attestation form is an essential requirement. An
aspirant is expected to state these facts honestly. Honesty and
integrity are inbuilt requirements of the police force. The
respondents should not, therefore, expect to score any brownie
points because of this disclosure. Besides, this has no
relevance to the point in issue. It bears repetition to state that
while deciding whether a person against whom a criminal case
was registered and who was later on acquitted or discharged
should be appointed to a post in the police force, what is
relevant is the nature of the offence, the extent of his
involvement, whether the acquittal was a clean acquittal or an
acquittal by giving benefit of doubt because the witnesses
turned hostile or because of some serious flaw in the
prosecution, and the propensity of such person to indulge in
similar activities in future. This decision, in our opinion, can
only be taken by the Screening Committee created for that
purpose by the Delhi Police. If the Screening Committee’s
decision is not mala fide or actuated by extraneous
considerations, then, it cannot be questioned.

35. The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the
great responsibility of maintaining law and order and public
order in the society. People repose great faith and confidence
in it. It must be worthy of that confidence. A candidate wishing
to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude.
He must have impeccable character and integrity. A person
having criminal antecedents will not fit in this category. Even
if he is acquitted or discharged in the criminal case, that
acquittal or discharge order will have to be examined to see
whether he has been completely exonerated in the case
11

because even a possibility of his taking to the life of crimes
poses a threat to the discipline of the police force. The
Standing Order, therefore, has entrusted the task of taking
decisions in these matters to the Screening Committee. The
decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final
unless it is mala fide. In recent times, the image of the police
force is tarnished. Instances of police personnel behaving in a
wayward manner by misusing power are in public domain and
are a matter of concern. The reputation of the police force has
taken a beating. In such a situation, we would not like to dilute
the importance and efficacy of a mechanism like the Screening
Committee created by the Delhi Police to ensure that persons
who are likely to erode its credibility do not enter the police
force. At the same time, the Screening Committee must be
alive to the importance of the trust reposed in it and must treat
all candidates with an even hand.”

12. The conclusions in Mehar Singh (supra) have been followed and the

principles reiterated by this Court in later decisions, namely in State of M.P.

v. Parvez Khan (supra) and in Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration

and others v. Pradeep Kumar and another (supra).

13. A three Judge Bench of this Court in Avtar Singh v. Union of India

(supra) was required to consider the difference of opinion in decisions of this

Court on the question of suppression of information or submission of false

information in the verification form on issues pertaining to involvement in

criminal cases and the effect thereof. The law on the point was settled by this

Court in following terms in paragraph No.38 of its decision as under:
12

“38. We have noticed various decisions and tried to explain
and reconcile them as far as possible. In view of the aforesaid
discussion, we summarise our conclusion thus:

38.1. Information given to the employer by a candidate as to
conviction, acquittal or arrest, or pendency of a criminal case,
whether before or after entering into service must be true and
there should be no suppression or false mention of required
information.

38.2. While passing order of termination of services or
cancellation of candidature for giving false information, the
employer may take notice of special circumstances of the case,
if any, while giving such information.

38.3. The employer shall take into consideration the
government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to the
employee, at the time of taking the decision.

38.4. In case there is suppression or false information of
involvement in a criminal case where conviction or acquittal
had already been recorded before filling of the
application/verification form and such fact later comes to
knowledge of employer, any of the following recourses
appropriate to the case may be adopted:

38.4.1. In a case trivial in nature in which conviction had been
recorded, such as shouting slogans at young age or for a petty
offence which if disclosed would not have rendered an
incumbent unfit for post in question, the employer may, in its
discretion, ignore such suppression of fact or false information
by condoning the lapse.

38.4.2. Where conviction has been recorded in case which is
not trivial in nature, employer may cancel candidature or
terminate services of the employee.

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38.4.3. 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.

38.5. In a case where the employee has made declaration
truthfully of a concluded criminal case, the employer still has
the right to consider antecedents, and cannot be compelled to
appoint the candidate.

38.6. In case when fact has been truthfully declared in
character verification form regarding pendency of a criminal
case of trivial nature, employer, in facts and circumstances of
the case, in its discretion, may appoint the candidate subject to
decision of such case.

38.7. In a case of deliberate suppression of fact with respect to
multiple pending cases such false information by itself will
assume significance and an employer may pass appropriate
order cancelling candidature or terminating services as
appointment of a person against whom multiple criminal cases
were pending may not be proper.

38.8. If criminal case was pending but not known to the
candidate at the time of filling the form, still it may have
adverse impact and the appointing authority would take
decision after considering the seriousness of the crime.

38.9. In case the employee is confirmed in service, holding
departmental enquiry would be necessary before passing order
of termination/removal or dismissal on the ground of
suppression or submitting false information in verification
form.

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38.10. For determining suppression or false information
attestation/verification form has to be specific, not vague. Only
such information which was required to be specifically
mentioned has to be disclosed. If information not asked for but
is relevant comes to knowledge of the employer the same can
be considered in an objective manner while addressing the
question of fitness. However, in such cases action cannot be
taken on basis of suppression or submitting false information
as to a fact which was not even asked for.

38.11. Before a person is held guilty of suppressio veri or
suggestio falsi, knowledge of the fact must be attributable to
him.”

14. In Avtar Singh (supra), though this Court was principally concerned

with the question as to non-disclosure or wrong disclosure of information, it

was observed in paragraph 38.5 that even in cases where a truthful disclosure

about a concluded case was made, the employer would still have a right to

consider antecedents of the candidate and could not be compelled to appoint

such candidate.

15. In the present case, as on the date when the respondent had applied, a

criminal case was pending against him. Compromise was entered into only

after an affidavit disclosing such pendency was filed. On the issue of

compounding of offences and the effect of acquittal under Section 320(8) of

Cr.P.C., the law declared by this Court in Mehar Singh (supra), specially in

paragraphs 34 and 35 completely concludes the issue. Even after the
15

disclosure is made by a candidate, the employer would be well within his

rights to consider the antecedents and the suitability of the candidate. While

so considering, the employer can certainly take into account the job profile for

which the selection is undertaken, the severity of the charges levelled against

the candidate and whether the acquittal in question was an honourable

acquittal or was merely on the ground of benefit of doubt or as a result of

composition.

16. The reliance placed by Mr. Dave, learned Amicus Curiae on the

decision of this Court in Mohammed Imran (supra) is not quite correct and

said decision cannot be of any assistance to the respondent. In para 5 of said

decision, this Court had found that the only allegation against the appellant

therein was that he was travelling in an auto-rickshaw which was following

the auto-rickshaw in which the prime accused, who was charged under

Section 376 IPC, was travelling with the prosecutrix in question and that all

the accused were acquitted as the prosecutrix did not support the allegation.

The decision in Mohammed Imran (supra) thus turned on individual facts

and cannot in any way be said to have departed from the line of decisions

rendered by this Court in Mehar Singh (supra), Parvez Khan (supra) and

Pradeep Kumar (supra).

16

17. We must observe at this stage that there is nothing on record to

suggest that the decision taken by the concerned authorities in rejecting the

candidature of the respondent was in any way actuated by mala fides or

suffered on any other count. The decision on the question of suitability of the

respondent, in our considered view, was absolutely correct and did not call for

any interference. We, therefore, allow this appeal, set aside the decisions

rendered by the Single Judge as well as by the Division Bench and dismiss

Writ Petition No.9412 of 2013 preferred by the respondent. No costs.

18. Before we part, we must record our appreciation for the efforts put in

by Mr. Siddharth Dave, learned Amicus Curiae and the assistance rendered by

him.

………….…………………..……J.

(Uday Umesh Lalit)

..……..…………….……………J.

(Dr. Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud)
New Delhi,
November 26, 2018

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