If a youth, by his act of indiscretion, fails to furnish a vital information required for employment out of fear that he will be disqualified, a lenient view must be taken by the authorities as it is not a serious offence, the Supreme Court has held.

A Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and Gyan Sudha Misra upheld a Delhi High Court judgment declaring illegal the cancellation of an application of a youth for not disclosing his involvement in a criminal case, though he was acquitted in it.

The Bench said, “The modern approach should be to reform a person instead of branding him a criminal all his life. When the incident happened, respondent Sandeep Kumar must have been about 20 years of age. At that age young people often commit indiscretions, and such indiscretions can often be condoned. After all, youth will be youth. They are not expected to behave in as mature a manner as older people.”

The Bench referred to the character ‘Jean Valjean' in Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, in which for committing a minor offence of stealing a loaf of bread for his hungry family, Jean Valjean was branded a thief for his whole life. In the instant case, in response to an advertisement issued in January 1999 for filling up of certain posts of Head Constables (Ministerial), the respondent applied on February 24, 1999 but did not mention in his application form that he was involved in a criminal case. He qualified in all the tests. On April 3, 2001, he filled the attestation form wherein for the first time he disclosed that he was involved in a criminal case, which was compromised in 1998 and he was acquitted.

His candidature was rejected for suppression of this information. While the Central Administrative Tribunal dismissed his plea, the High Court allowed his petition and held that cancellation of his candidature was illegal. The present appeal was filed by the Commissioner of Police, Delhi, against this judgment.

The Bench said: “It is true that in the application form, the respondent did not mention that he was involved in a criminal case. Probably he did not mention this out of fear that if he did so he would automatically be disqualified. At any event, it was not such a serious offence like murder, dacoity or rape, and hence a more lenient view should be taken in the matter. The appeal has no force and it is dismissed.”

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