Special Correspondent

“Appointing authority can reject application for concealment of material fact”

CHENNAI: A person acquitted in a case on the benefit of doubt or discharged from a criminal case can still be considered disqualified for selection to the police service. The same cannot be termed illegal or unjustified, the Madras High Court ruled on Thursday.

A Full Bench of Chief Justice A.P. Shah and Justices F.M. Ibrahim Kalifulla and V. Ramasubramanian gave the ruling, dismissing a batch of seven writ petitions filed by Manikandan and others.

It said a person’s failure to disclose in the application form either his involvement in a criminal case or the pendency of a criminal case against him would entitle the appointing authority to reject his application on the ground of concealment of a material fact, irrespective of the outcome of the case.

“Amended Rule not ultra vires”

It held that the non-selection of the petitioners, or the rejection of their candidature either because of their involvement in a criminal case or of suppression of their involvement, was perfectly valid and justified. The amended Rule 14 (b) of the Special Rules for Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Services was not ultra vires or unconstitutional.

Originally, the petitions came up before a single judge. In view of citation of conflicting decisions rendered by the Benches, the judge referred the matter to the Full Bench to decide whether the acquittal or discharge of a person in a criminal case on the benefit of doubt would amount to a stigma on the life of a person so as to make him ineligible as per Rule 14 (b), Explanation-1 of the Tamil Nadu Special Police Subordinate Rules and whether the non-disclosure of involvement in a criminal case — which had ended in acquittal, but in some cases disclosed after acquittal — could be a ground for disqualifying the persons concerned from entering government service.

The Bench said the failure of a person to disclose his involvement in a criminal case at the earliest point of time — when the application was filled up — was fatal. His subsequent disclosure, whether before or after acquittal, would not cure the defect.

It was well settled that provisional selection did not confer any automatic right to appointment on a candidate. The petitioners had completed physical fitness test, written test, interview and medical test. During police verification of their character and antecedents, they had adverse reports. So the appointing authority did not issue appointment orders.

“No grievance”

The stage when the petitioners were shown the red card by the referee was not the stage at which the petitioners had acquired an inviolable right to be appointed. Therefore, the petitioners could not make out a grievance, especially when their involvement in criminal cases either before the commencement of selection or during the course of it was not disputed.