Supreme Court of India
Union Of India vs Methu Meda on 6 October, 2021Author: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee

Bench: Hon’Ble Ms. Banerjee, J.K. Maheshwari










Leave granted.

2. Questioning the validity of the order passed in Writ

Appeal No. 1090 of 2013 on 20.12.2013 upholding the order of

the learned Single Judge passed on 27.09.2013 in Writ

Petition No. 3897 of 2013, this appeal has been preferred.

3. The facts unfolded in the present case are that the

respondent was found involved in an offence of kidnapping of
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Nilesh for demand of ransom. An FIR was registered against
Date: 2021.10.06
16:33:12 IST

him on 22.8.2009. After investigation challan was filed, and

he was tried before the Sessions Court, Jhabua, Madhya

Pradesh in Sessions Case Serial No. 1 of 2010 for the charge

framed against him under Sections 347/327/323/506 (Part­

II) and 364A IPC. The Sessions Court acquitted him for the

said charge because the complainant, who was abducted,

turned hostile in the Court. Thereafter, respondent applied for

the post of Constable in Central Industrial Security Force (for

short “CISF”) and got selected through the Staff Selection

Commission (for short “SSC”). An offer of appointment for

provisional selection to the post of Constable/GD was issued

to the respondent on 30.3.2012, subject to the conditions

given in the agreement form. The respondent was required to

furnish the documents including attestation forms, certificate

of character, character and antecedent certificate from local

Station House Officer. The respondent, while submitting the

attestation form, specified the registration of above­said

criminal case and acquittal from the charges in a trial by the

competent court.

4. As the offer of appointment was conditional, therefore,

in terms of the CISF Circular No. E­

EG7023/TRG.SEC/ADM.I/CIRCULARS/2010­1157 dated

31.03.2010. he was not allowed to join training. The Ministry

of Home Affairs vide letter No. I­45020/6/2010­Pers.II

issued the guidelines on 01.02.2012 for consideration of the

cases of the candidates against whom criminal cases were

registered or tried by the courts.

5. In furtherance to the said guidelines, the case of the

respondent was referred to AIG(L&R), CISF Hqrs, New Delhi

with an information to IG/TS, CISF(TS) NISA, Hyderabad vide

letter No. F37023/CISF/RTC(D)/Trg./CBG/2012/2656 dated

04.05.2012. The Standing Screening Committee assembled

on 27.07.2012 and examined the cases of 89 candidates

including the respondent and on 15.10.2012 passed an order

that respondent was not eligible for appointment.

6. Questioning the validity of the said action and asking for

consequential reliefs, Writ Petition No. 3897 of 2013 was filed

before the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, Indore Bench. The

learned Single Judge, vide order dated 27.09.2013, allowed

the Writ Petition directing the respondents therein to issue an

order for sending the respondent herein on training

commencing with effect from 21.10.2013. The Court further

held that he would be entitled for all consequential benefits

including seniority, notional fixation of salary etc. but back

wages were denied. The said order was assailed before the

Division Bench by filing Writ Appeal, but it was also

dismissed, which led to filing the present appeal through the


7. The validity of the order passed by the learned Single

Judge and also by the Division Bench have been assailed,

inter alia, contending, until the respondent is honourably

acquitted from the charge involving moral turpitude and the

decision of the Screening Committee is not passed mala fide,

interference in such decision is not warranted. Reliance is

placed on the decision of this Court in Inspector General of

Police & Another vs. S. Samuthiram (2013) 1 SCC 598 to

clarify the meaning of ‘honourable acquittal’.

8. It is argued that merely making a disclosure of the

criminal case in the attestation form is not sufficient. As per

the Policy Guidelines dated 01.02.2012, in view of involvement

of the respondent in heinous offences including the offences

under Sections 327/347/364A IPC, he would not be entitled

for appointment until honourably acquitted. Even though,

the respondent has been provisionally selected vide letter

dated 30.03.2012, issued by the Chairman of the Recruitment

Board, but mere acquittal giving benefit of doubt, as the

witnesses have turned hostile, would not make the candidate

suitable for appointment. The impugned orders passed by the

High Court of Madhya Pradesh are contrary to the law laid

down in the case of Avtar Singh vs. Union of India and

Others (2016)8 SCC 471, Commissioner of Police, New

Delhi and Another vs. Mehar Singh (2013)7 SCC 685, State

of Madhya Pradesh and Others vs. Abhijit Singh Pawar

(2018) 18 SCC 733, State of Rajasthan and Others vs. Love

Kush Meena 2021(4) SCALE 634 and Commissioner of

Police vs. Raj Kumar 2021(9) SCALE 713. It is urged that
acquittal in a criminal case is not conclusive for suitability of

the candidate for appointment. Thus, unless the respondent

is honourably acquitted in a criminal case, it would not

automatically entitle him for appointment to the post.

9. Per contra, learned counsel for the respondent contended

that the Single Judge as well as the Division Bench of the High

Court of Madhya Pradesh have considered the judgment of

Delhi High Court in the case of Rahul Yadav vs CISF and

another, 178(2011) DLT 263, where the High Court observed

that the situation and background of the candidates hailing

from the rural areas were relevant factors for consideration.

Mere registration of a criminal case and acquittal from the

said charges, would not disentitle him from appointment. The

special leave petition preferred against the said judgment has

been dismissed by this Court on 05.10.2012. On the point of

defining the ‘acquittal’, the judgment in Panna Mehta vs.

State of M.P. (2002) 4 M.P.H.T. 226 has been relied and urged

that if the respondent has not concealed the material fact and

specified details in the attestation form regarding the criminal

case, trial and its result, it would not disentitle him from

appointment to the post, in particular when in Bombay High

Court, in the case of similarly situated person Ramesh has

been sent on training. It is urged that the impugned order

passed by the High Court is in conformity to law. The

judgment in Panna Mehta (supra) is, however,

distinguishable on facts in that a similarly situated person had

been sent on training.

10. After having heard learned counsel for the parties at

length, the question which arises in the present appeal is

whether the decision of the Screening Committee rejecting the

candidature of the respondent, when there was no allegation

of malice against the Screening Committee and the

respondent­writ petitioner had been acquitted of serious

charges, inter alia, of kidnapping for ransom as some

prosecution witnesses had turned hostile, ought to have been

interfered with.

11. While addressing the question, as argued the meaning of

expression ‘acquittal’ is required to be looked into. The

expressions ‘honourable acquittal’, ‘acquitted of blame’ and

‘fully acquitted’ are unknown to the Code of Criminal

Procedure or the Indian Penal Code. It has been developed by

judicial pronouncements. In the case of State of Assam &

Another vs. Raghava Rajgopalachari, (1972) 7 SLR 44, the

effect of the word ‘honourably acquitted’ has been considered

in the context of the Assam Fundament Rules (FR) 54 (a) for

entitlement of full pay and allowance if the employee is not

dismissed. The Court has referred the judgment of Robert

Stuart Wauchope vs. Emperor reported in (1934) 61 ILR

Cal. 168, in the context of expression ‘honourably acquitted’,

Lord Williams, J. observed as thus:

“The expression “honourably acquitted” is one
which is unknown to courts of justice. Apparently it
is a form of order used in courts martial and other
extra judicial tribunals. We said in our judgment
that we accepted the explanation given by the
Appellant believed it to be true and considered that it
ought to have been accepted by the Government
authorities and by the magistrate. Further we
decided that the Appellant had not misappropriated
the monies referred to in the charge. It is thus clear
that the effect of our judgment was that the
Appellant was acquitted as fully and completely as it
was possible for him to be acquitted. Presumably,
this is equivalent to what Government authorities
term “honourably acquitted”. “

12. In the case of R.P. Kapur vs. Union of India AIR 1964

SC 787, it is observed and held by Wanchoo, J., as thus:

“Even in case of acquittal, proceedings may follow where
the acquittal is other than honourable.”

13. In view of the above, if the acquittal is directed by the

court on consideration of facts and material evidence on

record with the finding of false implication or the finding that

the guilt had not been proved, accepting the explanation of

accused as just, it be treated as honourable acquittal. In

other words, if prosecution could not prove the guilt for other

reasons and not ‘honourably’ acquitted by the Court, it be

treated other than ‘honourable’, and proceedings may follow.

14. The expression ‘honourable acquittal’ has been

considered in the case of S. Samuthiram (supra) after

considering the judgments of Reserve Bank of India vs.

Bhopal Singh Panchal (1994)1 SCC 541, R.P. Kapur (supra),

Raghava Rajagopalachari (supra); this Court observed that

the standard of proof required for holding a person guilty by a

criminal court and enquiry conducted by way of disciplinary

proceeding is entirely different. In a criminal case, the onus of

establishing guilt of the accused is on the prosecution, until

proved beyond reasonable doubt. In case, the prosecution

failed to take steps to examine crucial witnesses or the

witnesses turned hostile, such acquittal would fall within the

purview of giving benefit of doubt and the accused cannot be

treated as honourably acquitted by the criminal court. While,

in a case of departmental proceedings, the guilt may be

proved on the basis of preponderance and probabilities, it is

thus observed that acquittal giving benefit of doubt would not

automatically lead to reinstatement of candidate unless the

rules provide so.

15. Recently, this Court in Union Territory, Chandigarh

Administration and Ors. vs. Pradeep Kumar and Anr.

(2018) 1 SCC 797, relying upon the judgment of S.

Samuthiram (supra) said that acquittal in a criminal case is

not conclusive of the suitability of the candidates on the post

concerned. It is observed, acquittal or discharge of a person

cannot always be inferred that he was falsely involved or he

had no criminal antecedent. The said issue has further been

considered in Mehar Singh (supra) holding non­examination

of key witnesses leading to acquittal is not honourable

acquittal, in fact, it is by giving benefit of doubt. The Court

said nature of acquittal is necessary for core consideration. If

acquittal is not honourable, the candidates are not suitable for

government service and are to be avoided. The relevant factors

and the nature of offence, extent of his involvement,

propensity of such person to indulge in similar activities in

future, are the relevant aspects for consideration by the

Screening Committee, which is competent to decide all these


16. In the present case, the charges were framed against the

respondent for the offences punishable under Sections

347/327/323/506(Part­II) and 364A IPC. He was acquitted

after trial vide judgment dated 19.03.2010 by the Sessions

Judge, Jhabua because the person kidnapped Nilesh and also

his wife have not supported the case of prosecution. As per

prosecution, the complainant was beaten by the respondent

and the said fact found support from the evidence of doctor.

Therefore, it appears that the Committee was of the view that

acquittal of the respondent, in the facts of the present case,

cannot be termed as ‘honourable acquittal’ and the said

acquittal may be treated by giving benefit of doubt.

17. The law with regard to the effect and consequence of the

acquittal, concealment of criminal case on appointments etc.

has been settled in the case of Avtar Singh (supra), wherein a

three­Judge Bench of this Court decided, as thus:

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

“38.1 Information given to the employer by a
candidate as to conviction, acquittal 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 required

38.2. While passing order of termination of services
or cancellation of candidature for giving false
information, the employer may take notice of special

circumstances of the case, if any, while giving such

38.3. The employer shall take into consideration the
Government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to
the employee, at the time of taking the decision.

38.4. In case there is suppression or false
information of involvement in a criminal case where
conviction or acquittal had already been recorded
before filling of the application/verification form and
such fact later comes to knowledge of employer, any
of the following recourse appropriate to the case may
be adopted :

38.4.1. In a case trivial in nature in which conviction
had been recorded, such as shouting slogans at
young age or for a petty offence which if disclosed
would not have rendered an incumbent unfit for post
in question, the employer may, in its discretion,
ignore such suppression of fact or false information
by condoning the lapse.

38.4.2 Where conviction has been recorded in case
which is not trivial in nature, employer may cancel
candidature or terminate services of the employee.

38.4.3 If acquittal had already been recorded in a
case involving moral turpitude or offence of
heinous/serious nature, on technical ground and it
is not a 3 case of clean acquittal, or benefit of
reasonable doubt has been given, the employer may
consider all relevant facts available as to
antecedents, and may take appropriate decision as to
the continuance of the employee.

38.5. In a case where the employee has made
declaration truthfully of a concluded criminal case,
the employer still has the right to consider
antecedents, and cannot be compelled to appoint the

38.6. In case when fact has been truthfully declared
in character verification form regarding pendency of

a criminal case of trivial nature, employer, in facts
and circumstances of the case, in its discretion may
appoint the candidate subject to decision of such

38.7. In a case of deliberate suppression of fact with
respect to multiple pending cases such false
information by itself will assume significance and an
employer may pass appropriate order cancelling
candidature or terminating services as appointment
of a 4 person against whom multiple criminal cases
were pending may not be proper.

38.8. If criminal case was pending but not known to
the candidate at the time of filling the form, still it
may have adverse impact and the appointing
authority would take decision after considering the
seriousness of the crime.

38.9. In case the employee is confirmed in service,
holding Departmental enquiry would be necessary
before passing order of termination/removal or
dismissal on the ground of suppression or
submitting false information in verification form.

38.10. For determining suppression or false
information attestation/verification form has to be
specific, not vague. Only such information which was
required to be specifically mentioned has to be
disclosed. If information not asked for but is relevant
comes to knowledge of the employer the same can be
considered in an objective manner while addressing
the question of fitness. However, in such cases action
cannot be taken on basis of suppression or 5
submitting false information as to a fact which was
not even asked for.

38.11. Before a person is held guilty of suppressio
veri or suggestio falsi, knowledge of the fact must be
attributable to him.”

18. In view of the above, in the facts of the present case, as

per paras 38.3, 38.4.3 and 38.5, it is clear that the employer is
having right to consider the suitability of the candidate as per

government orders/instructions/rules at the time of taking the

decision for induction of the candidate in employment.

Acquittal on technical ground in respect of the offences of

heinous/serious nature, which is not a clean acquittal, the

employer may have a right to consider all relevant facts

available as to the antecedents, and may take appropriate

decision as to the continuance of the employee. Even in case,

truthful declaration regarding concluded trial has been made

by the employee, still the employer has the right to consider

antecedents and cannot be compelled to appoint the


19. If we look into the facts of the present case, the

instructions of the Home Department dated 1.02.2012,

prevalent at the time of selection and appointment specify

such candidate would not be considered for recruitment. In

Circular No. 2/2010 dated 31.03.2010, issued by the Office of

the Training Sector, National Industrial Security Academy,

Central Industrial Security Force (Ministry of Home Affairs), it

is clarified if a candidate is found involved in any criminal

case, whether it is finalized or pending, the candidate may not

be allowed to join without further instructions from the

headquarter. After seeking instructions from the headquarter,

the Standing Committee has taken the decision on 15.10.2012

that because of acquittal giving benefit of doubt, the

respondent­writ petitioner was not considered eligible for

appointment in CISF.

20. In the aforesaid fact, guidance can further be taken from

the judgment of Mehar Singh (supra), in paras 23, 34, 35,

this Court observed, as thus:

23. A careful perusal of the policy leads us to
conclude that the Screening Committee would be
entitled to keep persons involved in grave cases of
moral turpitude out of the police force even if they
are acquitted or discharged if it feels that the
acquittal or discharge is on technical grounds or not
honourable. 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 conduct 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 police force. The
Screening Committee will have to consider the
nature and extent of such person’s involvement in

the crime and his propensity of becoming a cause
for worsening the law and order situation rather
than maintaining it. In our opinion, this policy
framed by the Delhi Police does not merit any
interference from this Court as its object appears to
be to ensure that only persons with impeccable
character enter the police force.

34. The respondents are trying to draw mileage from
the fact that in their application and/or attestation
form they have disclosed their involvement in a
criminal case. We do not see how this fact improves
their case. Disclosure of these facts in the
application/attestation form is an essential
requirement. An aspirant is expected to state these
facts honestly. Honesty and integrity are inbuilt
requirements of the police force. The respondents
should not, therefore, expect to score any brownie
points because of this disclosure. Besides, this has
no relevance to the point in issue. It bears repetition
to state that while deciding whether a person
against whom a criminal case was registered and
who was later acquitted or discharged should be
appointed to a post in the police force, what is
relevant is the nature of the offence, the extent of
his involvement, whether the acquittal was a clean
acquittal or an acquittal by giving benefit of doubt
because the witnesses turned hostile or because of
some serious flaw in the prosecution, and the
propensity of such person to indulge in similar
activities in future. This decision, in our opinion,
can only be taken by the Screening Committee
created for that purpose by the Delhi Police. If the
Screening Committee’s decision is not mala fide or
actuated by extraneous considerations, then, it
cannot be questioned.

35. 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 wishing to
join the police force must be a person of utmost

rectitude. He must have impeccable 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 Order, 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 tarnished. 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.

21. In view of the aforesaid, it is clear the respondent who

wishes to join the police force must be a person of utmost

rectitude and have impeccable character and integrity. A

person having a criminal antecedents would not be fit in this

category. The employer is having right to consider the nature

of acquittal or decide until he is completely exonerated

because even a possibility of his taking to the life of crimes

poses a threat to the discipline of the police force. The

Standing Order, therefore, has entrusted the task of taking

decisions in these matters to the Screening Committee and the

decision of the Committee would be final unless mala fide. In

the case of Pradeep Kumar (supra), this Court has taken the

same view, as reiterated in the case of Mehar Singh (supra).

The same view has again been reiterated by this Court in the

case of Raj Kumar (supra).

22. As discussed hereinabove, the law is well­settled. If a

person is acquitted giving him the benefit of doubt, from the

charge of an offence involving moral turpitude or because the

witnesses turned hostile, it would not automatically entitle

him for the employment, that too in disciplined force. The

employer is having a right to consider his candidature in terms

of the circulars issued by the Screening Committee. The mere

disclosure of the offences alleged and the result of the trial is

not sufficient. In the said situation, the employer cannot be

compelled to give appointment to the candidate. Both the

Single Bench and the Division Bench of the High Court have

not considered the said legal position, as discussed above in

the orders impugned. Therefore, the impugned orders passed

by the learned Single Judge of the High Court in Writ Petition

No. 3897 of 2013 and Division Bench in Writ Appeal No. 1090

of 2013 are not sustainable in law, as discussed hereinabove.

23. Accordingly, this appeal is hereby allowed and the

impugned orders are set­aside. No order as to costs.


OCTOBER 6, 2021.



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