Supreme Court of India
Commissioner Of Police vs Raj Kumar on 25 August, 2021Author: S. Ravindra Bhat

Bench: K.M. Joseph, S. Ravindra Bhat



CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4960/ 2021
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) NO. 13285 OF 2014)




CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4961/ 2021
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) 13282/2014)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4963/ 2021
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) 18397/2014)

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4962/2021
(ARISING OUT OF SLP (C) 18396/2014)



1. Leave granted. The Commissioner of Police, Delhi (“the appellant”) is in
appeal, aggrieved by a common judgment of the Delhi High Court by which the
respondents (hereafter referred to as “candidates/applicants”) were directed to be con-
sidered for appointment to the post of Constable of Delhi Police.

2. An advertisement was issued in the year 2009, inviting applications from
eligible candidates to fill up vacancies in the cadre of constable in the Delhi Police. It
Signature Not Verified

is not in dispute that the respondent candidates, in their applications, disclosed that
Digitally signed by
Rajni Mukhi
Date: 2021.08.25
16:13:30 IST

criminal cases had been instituted against them – as well as the outcome of those
cases. Except in SLP(C) 18396/2014 where the applicant Deepa Tomar was facing

trial, the criminal cases had ended in compromise. After due consideration of their
candidature, and in terms of S.O. No.398/2010, the appellant referred their cases to a
Standing Committee, to assess their suitability. In Deepa Tomar’s case, the
consideration was deferred since she was facing trial in criminal proceedings where
she was charged with committing the offence of kidnapping under Section 364 IPC.
By various orders, which were impugned in separate proceedings by the candidates,
the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) allowed the applications of the
candidates, upholding their pleas, and quashing the orders of the Screening
Committees. All the orders of the CAT were impugned by the appellant before the
High Court. They were dealt with and considered by the common impugned order,
which rejected the appellant’s petitions, under Article 226 of the Constitution of

3. The main argument by the candidates was that having regard to the terms of
the applicable Standing Order as well as the decisions of this Court, the rejection of
their candidature was unsustainable because of non-application of mind and further
the orders were made in a mechanical manner. By the impugned order, the Division
Bench allowed the writ petitions and quashed the rejection of the candidatures of the

4. It is urged by the Additional Solicitor General (ASG), Ms. Madhavi Divan, ap-
pearing on behalf of the appellant that the impugned judgment is erroneous
inasmuch as the Division Bench lost sight of the fact that the Standing Orders could
not be so read as compelling the authorities to select applicants whose conduct was
not satisfactory in the opinion of the Screening Committee. The appellant relies upon
the rulings of this Court in Commissioner of Police, New Delhi & Anr v Mehar Singh 1
as well as the observations of the three-Judge Bench in the Court’s judgment in Avtar
Singh v. UOI &Ors2.

(2013) 7 SCC 685
(2016) 8 SCC 471

5. The appellant urges that in all the four cases, the candidates faced criminal
proceedings – in most of them, even charges were framed after which the cases
against them ended in a compromise. In the case of Ms. Deepa Tomar, the candidate
was not only accused but also charged for committing the offence of kidnapping. She
stood trial but was acquitted on the ground of insufficient evidence. It was submitted
that having regard to the nature of the offences that the candidates were alleged to
have committed and the outcome of the cases, the authorities were justified in
concluding that they were unsuitable for employment in the concerned post, i.e. as
Constables of Police.

6. It was argued by Mr. Singhal appearing on behalf of two candidates, Shiv
Singh [SLP(C) 13282/2014] and Prem Singh Choudhary [SLP(C) 18396/2014] that
the Screening Committee dealt with their cases in a perfunctory manner and did not
appreciate the entirety of facts. With respect to the respondent Shiv Singh, it was
urged that though in the first information report (FIR), allegations could have led to
grave offences, including charge under Section 353 IPC, as a matter of fact the
charges framed were not in relation to these offences. Ultimately, the alleged victims
had no difficulty in entering into compromise with the candidate, which led to
compounding of the offences that he was said to have committed. It was submitted
that in the case of Prem Singh Choudhary/Respondent too, it could not be said that
the criminal charges (i.e., of committing offences under Sections 143/343/341 IPC)
were either grave or involved moral turpitude. In this case too, the accused/candidate
was not convicted; and a compromise was entered into with the informant.

7. Learned counsel for the respondent/candidates relied upon the observations of
the High Court that in cases involving allegations of commission of offences under
Section 323 IPC, especially where the offenders were youth from rural backgrounds,
it cannot be said that the conduct involved moral turpitude and that the Courts should
be alive to the realities that in such areas, brawls and fights are common place. It was
also emphasized that there is a tendency of exaggerating on the part of the informants

whenever such incidents occur, to falsify the facts and implicate the offenders.

8. Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondent Deepa Tomar drew the
attention of the court to the findings recorded by the trial court. It was submitted that
an overall reading of the facts narrated by the trial court would show that the re-
lationship between the candidate and her husband Joginder was strained and that
therefore, she and her family members were accused of having abducted him; he was
reported missing. Learned counsel submitted that having regard to the evidence led
by the prosecution which was considered by the concerned court of competent
jurisdiction, the candidate was exonerated of the offences. These had to be duly
considered and appropriate weight given, to the findings of such court by the
Screening Committee. Learned counsel submitted that the Screening Committee did
not apply its mind and merely went by the label, i.e. the seriousness of the offence to
hold the candidate Deepa Tomar unsuitable – an entirely arbitrary outcome.

Analysis and Conclusions
9. For the sake of clarity, a tabular chart, indicating the involvement of each of
the respondent, in respect of various offences, the course of the trials, their outcome,
etc, is set out below:

S. Name of Case No. FIR Offence Remarks
No. writ
1 Raj SLP(C.) No. FIR No. 283/07, Cognizance Acquitted by Order
Kumar 13285/2014 dated taken under dated 22.05.2008 under
14.10.2007. sec. 147, Sections 147 and 336 as
under Sections 451, 323, charges were not
143, 451, 323, 336 IPC proved. Compromised
336, 382 IPC charges under Sections
451 and 323.
2. Shiv SLP(C.) No. FIR No. Cognizance Acquitted by order
Singh 13282/2014 410/2009 taken under dated 01.12.2019;
Dated sec. under acquitted under Sections
18.10.2009 Sections 323, 341, 325, 34 IPC
under Sections 323, 341, based on the
323, 341, 325, 34 325, 34 IPC compromise deed dated
IPC. 01.12.2019.

3. Deepa SLP(C.) No. FIR dated Cognizance Acquitted by order
Tomar 18397/2014 26.05.2002 taken under dated 04.05.2011 (pg.
under Sections Sections 67-106). Acquitted
364, 506, 120 364, 120 B under Sections 120B,
IPC IPC 364 IPC as the
prosecution was not
able to prove the
charges beyond the
doubt. Therefore, Court
held that the accused as
entitled to the benefit of
4 Prem SLP(C.) No. FIR No. 38/2007 Cognizance Acquitted by order
Singh 18396/2014 dated 14.02.2007 Under dated 04.12.2009 under
Choudhar under Sections Sections Sections
y 143, 341, 323 323, 341, 323, 341, 325, 34 IPC
IPC 325, 34 IPC on the basis of
compromise with the

10. Standing order No.398/2010, which is relevant for an appropriate decision in
this case, reads as follows:


During the recruitments made in Delhi Police, several cases come to light where
candidates conceal the fact of their involvement in criminal cases in the applica-
tion Form/Attestation Form in the hope that it may not come to light and disclo-
sure by them at the beginning of the recruitment process itself may debar them
from participating in the various recruitment tests. Also the appointment if he/she
has been acquitted but not honourably.
In order to formulate a comprehensive policy, the following rules shall be appli-
cable for all the recruitments conducted by Delhi Police:-
1). xxx xxxxxx
2). xxx xxxxxx

3). If a candidate had disclosed his/her involvement and/or arrest in criminal
cases, complaint case, preventive proceedings etc. and the case is pending inves-
tigation or pending trial, the candidature will be kept in abeyance till the final de-
cision of the case. After the court’ judgment, if the candidate is acquitted or dis-
charged, the case will be referred to the Screening Committee of the PHQ com-
prising of Special Commissioner of Police/Administration, Joint Commissioner of
Police/Headquarters and Joint Commissioner of Police/Vigilance to assess
his/her suitability for appointment in Delhi Police.

4) If a candidate had disclosed his/her involvement in criminal case, complaint
case, preventive proceedings etc. both in the application form as well as in the at-
testation form but was acquitted or discharged by the court, his/her case will be
referred to the Screening Committee of PHQ to assess his/her suitability for ap-
pointment in Delhi Police.
5). xxx xxxxxx
6). Such candidates against whom charge-sheet in any criminal case has been
filed in the court and the charges fall in the category of serious offences or moral
turpitude, though later acquitted or acquitted by extending benefit of doubt or the
witnesses have turned hostile due to fear of reprisal by the accused person, he/she
will generally not be considered suitable for government service. However, all
such cases will be judged by the Screening Committee of PHQ to assess their suit-
ability for the government job. The details of criminal cases which involve moral
turpitude may kindly be perused at Annexure ‘A’.
7) Such cases in which a candidate had faced trial in any criminal case which
does not fall in the category of moral turpitude and is subsequently acquitted by
the court and he/she discloses about the same in both application form as well as
attestation form will be judged by the Screening Committee to decide about
his/her suitability for the government job.
8) xxx xxxxxx
9). If any candidate is discharged by extending the benefit of Probation of Offend-
ers Act, 1958 this will also not be viewed adversely by the department for his/her
suitability for government service.”

11. Annexure A to the above policy which refers to offences involving moral
turpitude is extracted below:
“1. Criminal Conspiracy (Section 120-B, Indian Penal Code)
2. Offences against the State (Sections 121 – 130, Indian Penal Code)
3. Offences relating to Army, Navy and Air Force (Sections 131-134, Indian Penal
4. Offence against Public Tranquility (Section 153-A & 153-B, Indian Penal
5. False evidence and offences against Public Justice (Sections 193-216A, Indian
Penal Code)
6. Offences relating to coin and government stamps (Section 231-263A, Indian
Penal Code).
7. Offences relating to Religion (Section 295-297, Indian Penal Code)
8. Offences affecting Human Body (Sections 302-304, 304B, 305-308, 311-317,
325-333, 335, 347, 348, 354, 363-373, 376-376-A, 376-B, 376-C, 376-D, 377, In-
dian Penal Code)
9. Offences against Property (Section 379-462, Indian Penal Code)

10. Offences relating to Documents and Property Marks (Section 465-489, Indian
Penal Code)
11. Offences relating to Marriage and Dowry Prohibition Act (Section 498-A, In-
dian Penal Code)”

12. Mehar Singh noted that Clause 3 of the Standing Order, which refers to the
Screening Committee, comprises of senior police officers. This committee assesses
candidates’ (previously implicated for an offence, but against whom charges are
terminated, for any reason), suitability for appointment. Clause 6 prescribes that
candidates who faced charges involving serious offences or offences involving moral
turpitude and who are later acquitted giving benefit of doubt or because the witnesses
turned hostile due to fear of reprisal by the accused person shall not generally be
considered suitable for government service. Each of such cases is to be considered by
the Screening Committee manned by senior officers.

13. It is evident from a reading of the applicable Standing Order along with
Annexure-A that in relation to certain offences, acquittal or exoneration of an accused
candidate, per se would not entitle her or him to consideration. In this regard, in
relation to offences listed in Annexure A inter alia, those who are accused of having
committed offences under Sections 325-333; 363-373 and 379-462; would fall within
the mischief of Clause 6. Upon an overall analysis of the Standing Order, this Court
is of the opinion that an acquittal or discharge in a criminal proceeding would not per
se enable the candidate to argue that the authorities can be compelled to select and
appoint her or him. This Court, in this regard, held inter alia as follows:
“The Screening Committee will be within its rights to cancel the candidature of a
candidate if it finds that the acquittal is based on some serious flaw in the con-
duct of the prosecution case or is the result of material witnesses turning hostile.
It is only experienced officers of the Screening Committee who will be able to
judge whether the acquitted or discharged candidate is likely to revert to similar
activities in future with more strength and vigour, if appointed, to the post in a po-
lice force.”

14. This Court has, in the past, on several occasions, dealt with questions which
are similar, if not entirely identical to what is involved in the present case, to wit,

whether in the event of exoneration or acquittal of an applicant/candidate arrayed as
accused of various offences is a decisive factor for consideration of his or her
suitability. Several judgments in the past had appeared to draw a distinction between
“clean” acquittal of accused individuals on the one hand and those acquitted or
exonerated on account of benefit of doubt. Similarly, where candidates were charged
with grave offences involving moral turpitude as well as larger outcomes were
examined. Another area which engaged this Court’s attention was the effect of
non-disclosure of pending criminal cases. Matters came to a head when all these
issues were referred to authoritative decision by a larger three judge Bench. In Avtar
Singh (supra), the three-judge bench, after detailed discussion of the various
circumstances that arose when public authorities are called upon to deal with such
cases, recorded its conclusions in the following manner:

“38. We have noticed various decisions and tried to explain and reconcile them
as far as possible. In view of aforesaid discussion, we summarize our conclusion

38.1 Information given to the employer by a candidate as to conviction, acquit-
tal or arrest, or pendency of a criminal case, whether before or after entering into
service must be true and there should be no suppression or false mention of re-
quired information.

38.2 While passing order of termination of services or cancellation of candida-
ture for giving false information, the employer may take notice of special circum-
stances of the case, if any, while giving such information.”

15. There are subsequent judgments too in this regard which have followed the
ruling in Joginder Singh v. Union Territory of Chandigarh & Ors 3; Union Territory,
Chandigarh Administration & Ors v. Pradeep Kumar & Anr4 and Anil Bhardwaj v.
High Court of Madhya Pradesh5. Before proceeding to analyze the facts in each
appeal, it would also be useful to reproduce the relevant extract of this Court’s ruling
in Mehr Singh (supra) where it was held as follows:

(2015) 2 SCC 377
(2018) 1 SCC 797
(2020) SCC Online (SC) 832

“The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the great responsibility of
maintaining law and order and public order in the society. People repose great
faith and confidence in it. It must be worthy of that confidence. A candidate wish-
ing to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude. He must have im-
peccable character and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not
fit in this category. Even if he is acquitted or discharged in the criminal case, that
acquittal or discharge order will have to be examined to see whether he has been
completely exonerated in the case because even a possibility of his taking to the
life of crimes poses a threat to the discipline of the police force. The Standing Or-
der, therefore, has entrusted the task of taking decisions in these matters to the
Screening Committee. The decision of the Screening Committee must be taken as
final unless it is mala fide. In recent times, the image of the police force is tar-
nished. Instances of police personnel behaving in a wayward manner by misusing
power are in public domain and are a matter of concern. The reputation of the
police force has taken a beating. In such a situation, we would not like to dilute
the importance and efficacy of a mechanism like the Screening Committee created
by the Delhi Police to ensure that persons who are likely to erode its credibility
do not enter the police force. At the same time, the Screening Committee must be
alive to the importance of trust reposed in it and must treat all candidates with
even hand.”

16. Turning now, to the individual facts of each case, the candidate in the Civil
Appeal arising from SLP(C) 13285/2014 (Raj Kumar), is alleged to have committed
offences under Sections 143/323/336/451 IPC along with other individuals. The
candidate is alleged to have committed trespass along with others into the house of
the complainant, armed with lathis and jailis, snatched the jewellery of the com-
plainant’s brother’s daughter-in-law. According to the allegations, there was a scuffle
resulting in injuries. Apparently, the existence of criminal charges had been disclosed
by the candidate which led to rejection of the case. The order of rejection of
candidature6 issued by the Screening Committee noted that the candidate’s
explanation was in regard to an antecedent family dispute between his family and that
of the informant. The order noted that a chargesheet was filed in the court and
cognizance was taken. Later, during the pendency of trial, both parties compromised
the case so that it could be compounded under Section 451/323 IPC with the approval
of the Court and that the candidate was later acquitted by order dated 22.05.2008 in
the absence of adequate evidence for charges under Section 147/336.

dated 22.03.2011

17. The impugned order proceeds on the footing that the complainant was found to
be suffering from a simple hurt. It also held that Raj Kumar was aged 20 years when
the incident occurred. The Division Bench was of the opinion that having regard to
these facts, the Screening Committee approached this task in a mechanical manner
and rejected Raj Kumar’s candidature.

18. In the opinion of this Court, the conclusions recorded in regard to Raj Kumar
are unsustainable. The Screening Committee went through the case records and noted
that a compromise was recorded with the approval of the Court with respect to two
offences whereas in the graver offences, the candidate stood trial but was acquitted on
account as there was no sufficient evidence and that “material witnesses” did not sup-
port the prosecution story. In the opinion of this Court, that the compromise
recorded in respect of the offences, that were compounded (and the acquittal for lack
of evidence) is apparently so on account of material witnesses not appearing or
turning hostile, was a relevant factor that the Screening Committee could and did
consider. In these circumstances, the conclusions of the High Court cannot be

19. Shiv Singh, respondent, in another case was accused of committing offences
punishable under Sections 323, 341, 325, 34 IPC. A charge sheet was filed before the
trail court on 12.11.2009. The court also recorded that the offences were prima facie
made out against the accused persons- including the respondent Shiv Singh. Later,
however, a compromise was arrived at between the accused and the complainant, and
an order of composition was issued on 01.12.2009, by the trial court. The Screening
committee considered the charge sheet and the order of the trial court, and having
regard to the nature of offences involved, was of the view that the candidate was not
suitable, because of his propensity to indulge in such behavior without fear of law.
The High Court faulted the Screening Committee’s order, as a mechanical exercise of
power, and reasoned that no charge of assaulting the modesty of a woman was made
against the candidate and that the charge of theft was unsubstantiated. The court was

also of the opinion that the candidate was young.

20. This court is unable to agree with the impugned order. Here, there is no dispute
that a charge sheet was filed in court, in respect of various offences, including
Section 325. The respondent candidate apparently thereafter approached the
informants, and compromised the dispute. The approach of the High Court, in
considering if evidence existed (in support of criminal charges), its credibility,
especially after a charge sheet was filed, and on the basis of its appreciation of those
materials, without the benefit of all the relevant records and evidence in judicial
review, cannot be sustained.

21. In the case of Prem Singh Choudhary, (the respondent in SLP (C) No
4304/2013) an FIR was registered in a police station at District Alwar, alleging that
he committed offences punishable under Sections 143/323/341 IPC. He and four
others were named by the complainant, Mukesh for forming an unlawful assembly;
he also alleged that the accused were carrying lathis and jeli (a farm implement) and
the accused, along with others assaulted him. The matter was compromised;
consequently, the court recorded acquittal. The Screening Committee took note of
these facts; the appointment order previously issued, was consequently withdrawn.
The order was quashed by the CAT. The High Court, commented that the accused
was not charged under Section 325 IPC; that he was young, and aged 22 years; that
the informant had not suffered serious injuries. After noting that one of the offences
the candidate was charged with was Section 325, the High Court stated “that no
material or evidence whatsoever was presented wherefrom it could be gathered that
the complainant suffered grievous injuries.” It was held that in the light of the
materials before the police, the informant had given an exaggerated account, of the
incident, which the Screening Committee rejected, mechanically.

22. Again, in Prem Singh Chaudhary’s case, this court is of the opinion that the
scrutiny of the materials, by the High Court, was as if it was sitting in appeal over the
decision of the Screening Committee. That body had the benefit of the overall record

of the candidate, in the context of considering his or her suitability. Its conclusions
should not have been brushed aside, on the ground that it showed mechanical
application of mind, or that the materials did not show involvement in a grave or
serious offence.

23. Deepa Tomar is the last candidate in the present batch of appeals. She was
accused along with her father in CM No. 198/2003 for an offence punishable under
Sections 120-B/364 IPC. Both were accused of having abducted her husband,
Jitender Singh. After facing trial, both accused were acquitted, by judgment dated
May 04, 2011. The screening committee was of the view that the acquittal was by
granting benefit of doubt, and that the candidate was unfit for appointment as a
Constable (Female) in the Delhi Police because she was accused of having committed
a heinous crime i.e. of abduction and that the victim, her husband (Jitender) was still

24. While quashing the decision of the Screening Committee, the High Court
reasoned that the incident was of 2001; Jitender’s father complained in 2002 and
voiced his suspicion against the candidate and her father. The High Court also

“meaningfully read, the testimony of Jitender’s family members was
suggestive of the fact that Deepa and Jitender were not having a strained
relationship but because of problems in the house of her in-laws Deepa had
to leave for her parental house and stealthily Jitender used to visit Deepa
or so his parents suspected. If this be so it would not stand to any logic or
reason for Deepa and her parents to have contrived to abduct Jitender and
make his disappear. Regretfully, the Screening Committee has gone by the
label of the offence and not the facts on which Deepa and her father were
acquitted. The Screening Committee has also overlooked the fact that in
her complaint lodged under Section 498-A/406 IPC Deepa has made no
accusation against her husband.”
25. In the case of Deepa Tomar, the intensive factual scrutiny which led the
impugned order to conclude that the decision of the screening committee is not
sustainable, is impermissible under Article 226 of the Constitution. It is evident from
the screening committee’s order, that it was aware of the judgment, as well as the

materials before the trial court. Significantly, before the candidature was cancelled,
the Deepa was issued with a show cause notice and she duly responded to it. The
committee had the benefit of considering that, as well as her overall record, when it
drew its conclusions. The fact appreciation by the High Court, and the intensive
scrutiny of the evidence, in the opinion of this court to conclude that Deepa could not
have been implicated in the offence, based on inferences drawn under Article 226 of
the Constitution, is an exercise of overreach of judicial review process.

26. Courts exercising judicial review cannot second guess the suitability of a
candidate for any public office or post. Absent evidence of malice or mindlessness (to
the materials), or illegality by the public employer, an intense scrutiny on why a
candidate is excluded as unsuitable renders the courts’ decision suspect to the charge
of trespass into executive power of determining suitability of an individual for
appointment. This was emphasized by this court, in M.V. Thimmaiah v. Union Public
Service Commission7 held as follows:

“21. Now, comes the question with regard to the selection of the candidates.
Normally, the recommendations of the Selection Committee cannot be challenged
except on the ground of mala fides or serious violation of the statutory rules. The
courts cannot sit as an Appellate Authority to examine the recommendations of
the Selection Committee like the court of appeal. This discretion has been given to
the Selection Committee only and courts rarely sit as a court of appeal to examine
the selection of the candidates nor is the business of the court to examine each
candidate and record its opinion…
30. We fail to understand how the Tribunal can sit as an Appellate Authority to
call for the personal records and constitute Selection Committee to undertake this
exercise. This power is not given to the Tribunal and it should be clearly
understood that the assessment of the Selection Committee is not subject to
appeal either before the Tribunal or by the courts. One has to give credit to the
Selection Committee for making their assessment and it is not subject to appeal.
Taking the overall view of ACRs of the candidates, one may be held to be very
good and another may be held to be good. If this type of interference is permitted
then it would virtually amount that the Tribunals and the High Courts have
started sitting as Selection Committee or act as an Appellate Authority over the
27. In Dalpat Abasaheb Solunke v Dr. B.S. Mahajan8 this court held that
(2008) 2 SCC 119
(1990) 1 SCC 305

“12. … it is not the function of the court to hear appeals over the decisions of
the Selection Committees and to scrutinise the relative merits of the candi-
dates. Whether a candidate is fit for a particular post or not has to be decided
by the duly constituted Selection Committee which has the expertise on the
subject. The court has no such expertise. … in the present case the University
had constituted the Committee in due compliance with the relevant statutes.
The Committee consisted of experts and it selected the candidates after going
through all the relevant material before it. In sitting in appeal over the selec-
tion so made and in setting it aside on the ground of the so-called comparative
merits of the candidates as assessed by the court, the High Court went wrong
and exceeded its jurisdiction.”

28. Again, in Union Public Service Commission v. M. Sathiya Priya9 it was
iterated that

“The question as to how the categories are assessed in light of the relevant
records and as to what norms apply in making the assessment, is exclusively to be
determined by the Selection Committee. Since the jurisdiction to make selection
as per law is vested in the Selection Committee and as the Selection Committee
members have got expertise in the matter, it is not open for the courts generally to
interfere in such matters except in cases where the process of assessment is
vitiated either on the ground of bias, mala fides or arbitrariness. It is not the
function of the court to hear the matters before it treating them as appeals over
the decisions of the Selection Committee and to scrutinise the relative merit of the
candidates. The question as to whether a candidate is fit for a particular post or
not has to be decided by the duly constituted expert body i.e. the Selection

29. Public service – like any other, pre-supposes that the state employer has an
element of latitude or choice on who should enter its service. Norms, based on
principles, govern essential aspects such as qualification, experience, age, number of
attempts permitted to a candidate, etc. These, broadly constitute eligibility conditions
required of each candidate or applicant aspiring to enter public service. Judicial
review, under the Constitution, is permissible to ensure that those norms are fair and
reasonable, and applied fairly, in a non-discriminatory manner. However, suitability is
entirely different; the autonomy or choice of the public employer, is greatest, as long
as the process of decision making is neither illegal, unfair, or lacking in bona fides.

(2018) 15 SCC 796

30. The High Court’s approach, evident from its observations about the youth and
age of the candidates, appears to hint at the general acceptability of behaviour which
involves petty crime or misdemeanour. The impugned order indicates a broad view,
that such misdemeanour should not be taken seriously, given the age of the youth and
the rural setting. This court is of opinion that such generalizations, leading to
condonation of the offender’s conduct, should not enter the judicial verdict and
should be avoided. Certain types of offences, like molestation of women, or trespass
and beating up, assault, causing hurt or grievous hurt, (with or without use of
weapons), of victims, in rural settings, can also be indicative of caste or
hierarchy-based behaviour. Each case is to be scrutinized by the concerned public
employer, through its designated officials- more so, in the case of recruitment for the
police force, who are under a duty to maintain order, and tackle lawlessness, since
their ability to inspire public confidence is a bulwark to society’s security.

31. For the foregoing reasons, this court hereby sets aside the common impugned
judgment and the orders of the CAT, quashing the orders issued by the appellant,
declining appointment to the respondent candidates. The appeals are accordingly
allowed, without any order on costs.



AUGUST 25, 2021.


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