Service Law; Avtar Singh Vs. Union of India [Supreme Court of India, 21-07-2016]

Service Law – Pendency of a Criminal Case – Held, 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.

AIR 2016 SC 3598 : (2016) 8 SCC 471 : JT 2016 (7) SC 300 : 2016 (7) Scale 378 : 2016 AIR (SCW) 3598 : 2016 (3) KLJ 512 : 2016 (6) MLJ 94 : 2016 (3) Law Herald (SC) 2312 : 2016 (3) KLT 61 : 2016 (3) PLJR 390 : 2016 (2) SCC (L&S) 425 : 2016 (5) ALL MR 916 : 2016 (5) BCR 457 : 2016 LIC 3707 : 2016 (5) SLR 270 : 2016 (3) Apex Court Judgments (SC) 549 : 2016 (4) M.P.L.J. 332 : 2016 (4) J.C.R. 27 : 2016 (6) Mh.LJ 484 : 2016 (4) RSJ 438 : 2016 (3) SCT 672 : 2016 (5) RAJ 385 :

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(Ranjan Gogoi) (Arun Mishra) (Prafulla C. Pant) JJ.

July 21, 2016.

SPECIAL LEAVE PETITIOIN [C] NO.20525/2011

Avtar Singh … Petitioner

Vs.

Union of India & Ors. … Respondents

[With SLP [C] Nos.4757/2014 and 24320/2014]

J U D G M E N T

ARUN MISHRA, J.

1. The cases have been referred to for resolving the conflict of opinion in the various decisions of Division Benches of this Court as noticed by this Court in

Jainendra Singh v. State of U.P. through Principal Secretary, Home & Ors., (2012) 8 SCC 748

The Court has considered the cleavage of opinion in various decisions on the question of suppression of information or submitting false information in the verification form as to the question of having been criminally prosecuted, arrested or as to pendency of a criminal case. A Division Bench of this Court has expressed the opinion on merits while referring the matter as to the variousprinciples to be borne in mind before granting relief to an aggrieved party. Following is the relevant observation made by a Division Bench of this Court :

“29. As noted by us, all the above decisions were rendered by a Division Bench of this Court consisting of two Judges and having bestowed our serious consideration to the issue, we consider that while dealing with such an issue, the Court will have to bear in mind the various cardinal principles before granting any relief to the aggrieved party, namely:

29.1. Fraudulently obtained orders of appointment could be legitimately treated as voidable at the option of the employer or could be recalled by the employer and in such cases merely because the respondent employee has continued in service for a number of years, on the basis of such fraudulently obtained employment, cannot get any equity in his favour or any estoppel against the employer.

29.2. Verification of the character and antecedents is one of the important criteria to test whether the selected candidate is suitable to the post under the State and on account of his antecedents the appointing authority if finds it not desirable to appoint a person to a disciplined force can it be said to be unwarranted.

29.3. When appointment was procured by a person on the basis of forged documents, it would amount to misrepresentation and fraud on the employer and, therefore, it would create no equity in his favour or any estoppel against the employer while resorting to termination without holding any inquiry.

29.4. A candidate having suppressed material information and/or giving false information cannot claim right to continue in service and the employer, having regard to the nature of employment as well as other aspects, has the discretion to terminate his services.

29.5. The purpose of calling for information regarding involvement in any criminal case or detention or conviction is for the purpose of verification of the character/antecedents at the time of recruitment and suppression of such material information will have a clear bearing on the character andantecedents of the candidate in relation to his continuity in service.

29.6. The person who suppressed the material information and/or gives false information cannot claim any right for appointment or continuity in service.

29.7. The standard expected of a person intended to serve in uniformed service is quite distinct from other services and, therefore, any deliberate statement or omission regarding a vital information can be seriously viewed and the ultimate decision of the appointing authority cannot be faulted.

29.8. An employee on probation can be discharged from service or may be refused employment on the ground of suppression of material information or making false statement relating to his involvement in the criminal case, conviction or detention, even if ultimately he was acquitted of the said case, inasmuch as such a situation would make a person undesirable or unsuitable for the post.

29.9. An employee in the uniformed service presupposes a higher level of integrity as such a person is expected to uphold the law and on the contrary such a service born in deceit and subterfuge cannot be tolerated.

29.10. The authorities entrusted with the responsibility of appointing constables, are under duty to verify the antecedents of a candidate to find out whether he is suitable for the post of a constable and so long as the candidate has not been acquitted in the criminal case, he cannot be held to be suitable for appointment to the post of constable.

30. When we consider the above principles laid down in the majority of the decisions, the question that looms large before us is when considering such claim by the candidates who deliberately suppressed information at the time of recruitment, can there be different yardsticks applied in the matter of grant of relief.

31. Though there are very many decisions in support of the various points culled out in the above paragraphs, inasmuch as we have noted certain other decisions taking different view of coordinate Benches, we feel it appropriate to refer theabovementioned issues to a larger Bench of this Court for an authoritative pronouncement so that there will be no conflict of views and which will enable the courts to apply the law uniformly while dealing with such issues.”

2. This Court while referring the matter had expressed the opinion that in case an appointment order has been secured fraudulently, the appointment is voidable at the option of the employer and the employee cannot get any equity in his favour and no estoppel is created against the employer only by the fact that the employee has continued in service for a number of years. It has been further observed that if appointment is secured on forged documents, it would amount to misrepresentation and fraud. The employer has a right to terminate the services on suppression of important information or giving false information, having regard to nature of employment. Verification of character and antecedents is important if the employer has found an incumbent to be undesirable for appointment to a disciplined force. It cannot be said to be unwarranted. The Court thus further opined that suppression of material information necessary for verification of character/antecedents will have a clear bearing on character and antecedents of a candidate in relation to his continuity in service and such a person cannot claim a right for appointment or continuity in service. The Bench was of the view that in uniformed service, suppression or false information can be viewed seriously as it requires higher level of integrity and the employer is supposed to find out before an appointment ismade that criminal case has come to an end and pendency of a case would serve as a bar for appointment and in such cases of suppression whether different yardsticks can be applied as noted in the various decisions of this Court. The question which has been referred to arises frequently and there are catena of decisions taking one view or the other on the facts of the case. It would be appropriate to refer to the various decisions rendered by this Court; some of them have been referred to in the impugned order.

3. It cannot be disputed that the whole idea of verification of character and antecedents is that the person suitable for the post in question is appointed. It is one of the important criteria which is necessary to be fulfilled before appointment is made. An incumbent should not have antecedents of such a nature which may adjudge him unsuitable for the post. Mere involvement in some petty kind of case would not render a person unsuitable for the job. Way back in the year 1983, in