Conflicting verdicts delivered by SC, Madras HC in similar cases

The Madras High Court bench here last week directed its registry to refer a batch of petitions filed by candidates, who were denied appointments as police constables because of criminal antecedents, to a larger bench observing that the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court had delivered conflicting verdicts in similar cases.

The 15 candidates who had moved the court claimed that they cleared the written examination conducted by the Tamil Nadu Uniformed Services Recruitment Board and were declared physically fit. But they were denied jobs after it came to light during the police verification that the names of the candidates had featured in various criminal cases before they were acquitted of them.

The special government pleader submitted that the government had taken the decision as per Rule 14 (b) (iv) of the Tamil Nadu Special Police Subordinate Service Rules, 1978, which does not permit candidates with a criminal background to be selected as police constables. He pointed out that according to the Rules, “A person who is acquitted or discharged on benefit of doubt or due to the fact that the complainant “turned hostile” shall be treated as a person involved in a Criminal Case”. Justice S. Nagamuthu requested the service of a senior counsel as amicus curiae in the case. The senior counsel brought to the court’s notice various judgements of the Supreme Court and the High Court, in which a full bench constituted by the High Court had dismissed several petitions with similar prayers, but the Supreme Court had allowed similar petitions.

In his judgement, Justice Nagamuthu observed that, “When the Supreme Court has held that even a convicted person is entitled to enter into the police service, provided the offence does not involve moral turpitude, I do not find any justification to hold that a person who has been acquitted given the benefit of doubt is not entitled to enter into police service”.

In view of the conflict between the judgments of the High Court and the Supreme Court, the judge noted that the constitutional validity of Rule 14 (b) (iv) of the Tamil Nadu Special Police Subordinate Service Rules could be decided only by a quorum of a bench comprising five or more judges constituted by the Chief Justice of the High Court. Therefore, he referred the cases to the Chief Justice to be heard by a larger bench.