Army officials cannot be discharged on the ground of fraudulent recruitment for not submitting relationship certificates if they never applied in the reserved category in the first place: SC


CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 644-645 OF 2017

Date of Judgment- FEBRUARY 9, 2024.

CORAM: Justice Bella M. Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal

Facts of the Case:

The case originated with the appellants being enrolled in the Army under the Unit Headquarters Quota (UHQ). However, after nearly three years of service, a show cause notice was issued to them, alleging that they obtained enrollment through fraudulent means, either by submitting fake sports certificates or false relationship certificates. Subsequently, the services of about 52 individuals, including the appellants, were terminated. Litigation ensued, leading to the reinstatement of candidates belonging to the sportsmen of merit category, but the appellants, accused of submitting false relationship certificates, remained dismissed.

The appellants then challenged their dismissal before the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in Kochi. However, the AFT, in its judgment dated 6.03.2014, upheld their discharge, citing their involvement in fraudulent practices and denying their reinstatement.

Following this decision, the appellants appealed to higher courts. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court. During the proceedings before the Supreme Court, it was emphasized that the appellants never applied for enrollment in any reserved category, which was recorded in the order dated 08.03.2016.

The appellants’ challenge before the Supreme Court primarily revolves around contesting their dismissal from service and seeking reinstatement. They argue that they did not apply for enrollment under any reserved category and hence should not have been penalized for fraudulent means allegedly adopted by other candidates. Thus, the appellants seek relief in the form of reinstatement to their positions in the Army.

Laws Involved:

  • Section 31 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007

Issue framed by the Court:

Whether the appellants had applied and were selected as general category candidates or were placed in any of the reserved category?

Courts Judgment and Analysis:

In the case under consideration, the Supreme Court meticulously analyzed several legal points, particularly focusing on whether the appellants were recruited as general category candidates or placed in any reserved category. The crux of the matter revolved around the authenticity of the relationship certificates produced by the appellants for their enrollment in the Army.

Firstly, the Court examined the recruitment process under the Headquarter Quota, emphasizing that it wasn’t solely confined to the priority or reserved class but was also open to a limited extent for general category candidates.

Secondly, the Court scrutinized the evidence regarding the production of relationship certificates by the appellants. It was noted that there was no concrete material on record establishing that the appellants had indeed submitted such certificates for their enrollment.

Thirdly, the Court addressed the issue of discharge/dismissal of the appellants from service. It was observed that the orders of discharge/dismissal were vitiated due to non-consideration of the appellants’ specific contention that they never applied in the reserved category and therefore did not submit any relationship certificates.

The Court referred to legal precedents such as S.N. Mukherjee vs. Union of India and Mohinder Singh Gill vs. Chief Election Commissioner to underscore the importance of considering material evidence and adhering to principles of natural justice in administrative decisions.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court concluded that the orders of discharge/dismissal were invalid due to the failure to consider the appellants’ plea adequately. Therefore, the Court set aside the impugned orders and directed the reinstatement of the appellants with all consequential benefits.

The Court’s final decision was to allow the appeals, overturning the discharge/dismissal orders, and ordering the appellants’ reinstatement.

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Written by- Aditi

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