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Decision of selection committee is final unless shown to be mala fide – Supreme Court

In the case of Anil Bhardwaj Vs High Court of Madhya Pradesh [Civil appeal no. 3419 of 2020] Supreme Court of India held that the persons who occupy Judicial Service of the State are persons who are expected to have impeccable character and conduct.

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh had issued an advertisement inviting applications for recruitment in the post of District Judge (Entry Level) in the cadre of Higher Judicial Service by Direct Recruitment from amongst the eligible Advocates. In pursuance to the advertisement, the appellant submitted online application form. The appellant after being declared successful in the Main Examination was called for interview. The appellant received a communication from the Law and Legislative Department informing that he has been selected for the post of District Judge (Entry Level). He was asked to appear before the Medical Board for the health tests. Later he was informed that he is ineligible for the post as in his attestation form, he had mentioned FIR No.852/2014 being filed against him in which he was later acquitted. Against this action of the High Court the appellant approached the Supreme Court.

The appellant submitted that he has not concealed any fact before the High Court regarding the FIR and is entitled to be appointed on the basis of merit. There was no other material on record to indicate that antecedent or conduct of the appellant was not upto the mark. The appellant could not have been deprived of the employment after acquittal.

It was not disputed that the criminal case under Section 498A and 406 IPC was pending at the time when the appellant applied for the recruitment, when he appeared for the interview and when the result was declared. The character verification report was received from the State where pendency of the criminal case was mentioned which was the reason for the Committee to declare the appellant unsuitable. The submission to be considered was that whether in view of the subsequent acquittal of the appellant, his case was required to be reconsidered and he was entitled to be appointed.

Court relied on the case of Avtar Singh vs. Union of India and others, (2016) 8 SCC 471, where different aspects of verification form after selection including the question of having criminal antecedents and pending of criminal case were examined and it was held that in the event criminal case is pending and incumbent has not been acquitted employer may well be justified in not appointing such an incumbent.

Court further referred the case of Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and others vs. Pradeep Kumar and another, (2018) 1 SCC 797 where it was held that, “It is thus well settled that acquittal in a criminal case does not automatically entitle him for appointment to the post. Still it is open to the employer to consider the antecedents and examine whether he is suitable for appointment to the post. The decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as final unless it is shown to be mala fide.”

Court held that, “the decision of Examination-cum-Section and Appointment Committee for holding the appellant unsuitable was based on the relevant consideration, i.e., a criminal case against the appellant under Section 498A/406/34 IPC was pending consideration which was registered on a complaint filed by the wife of the appellant. Such decision of the Committee was well within the jurisdiction and power of the Committee and cannot be said to be unsustainable. The mere fact that subsequently after more than a year when the person whose candidature has been cancelled has been acquitted cannot be a ground to turn the clock backward.”

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