Anil Bhardwaj vs The Honble High Court Of Madhya … on 13 October, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

Anil Bhardwaj vs The Honble High Court Of Madhya … on 13 October, 2020

Author: Ashok Bhushan

Bench: Ashok Bhushan, R. Subhash Reddy, M.R. Shah

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                                                                     REPORTABLE
                                  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

                                  CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).3419 of 2020
                             (Arising out of SLP(C)No.10255 of 2020)

         ANIL BHARDWAJ                                        APPELLANT(S)

                                              VERSUS

         THE HON’BLE HIGH COURT OF
         MADHYA PRADESH & ORS.                               RESPONDENT(S)




                                          J U D G M E N T

ASHOK BHUSHAN, J.

Leave granted.

2. This appeal has been filed questioning the Division

Bench judgment dated 06.01.2020 of the High Court of

Madhya Pradesh dismissing the writ petition filed by

the appellant. The appellant in the writ petition has

prayed for quashing the orders dated 14.09.2018,
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
18.07.2018 and 21.09.2019 by which appellant has been
MEENAKSHI KOHLI
Date: 2020.10.13
14:49:39 IST
Reason:

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held not suitable for being appointed to the post of

District Judge (Entry Level).

3. The brief facts of the case are:

The High Court of Madhya Pradesh issued an

advertisement dated 09.03.2017 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 provisional select and

waiting list was published in which the name of the

appellant was included at Serial No.13 in the category

of unreserved. The appellant received a communication

on 06.04.2018 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. On

02.07.2018 the appellant was informed that in his
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attestation form FIR No.852/2014 under Section

498/406/34 IPC is shown and the copy of the same was

asked for. On 14.09.2018 order was issued by the

Principal Secretary, Madhya Pradesh, Law and

Legislative Department declaring the appellant

ineligible and directing for deletion the name of the

appellant from the select list. The Government also

issued a Gazette notification deleting the name of the

appellant from the Merit No.13 of the main select list.

4. The appellant filed a Writ Petition No.27434 of

2018 before the High Court challenging the order dated

14.09.2018 and the Gazette notification dated

21.09.2018. On application submitted under the Right to

Information Act, the appellant was provided extract of

the Minutes of the Joint Meeting of Administrative

Committee (Higher Judicial Service) and Examination-

cum-Selection and Appointment Committee dated

18.07.2018 by which proceedings the appellant was not

considered suitable for being appointed to the post of

District Judge (Entry Level). On the basis of a
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complaint by the wife of the appellant, a criminal case

was registered and vide judgment dated 18.09.2019 the

appellant was acquitted of the charge framed against

him.

5. The appellant filed an application for amendment of

the writ petition to bring on record the order of the

acquittal and other events occurred during the pendency

of the writ petition. The appellant was permitted to

withdraw his earlier writ petition with liberty to file

a fresh writ petition. Writ Petition No.27779 of 2019

was filed by the appellant incorporating subsequent

events, facts and acquittal order which writ petition

has been dismissed by the impugned judgment dated

06.01.2020 by the High Court. Aggrieved by the impugned

judgment, the appellant has come up in this appeal.

6. We have heard Shri R. Venkataramani, learned senior

counsel for the appellant.

7. Learned senior counsel for the appellant submits

that the appellant in his online application form has

disclosed about the lodging of FIR No.852/2014 under
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Section 498A/406/34 IPC. He submits that appellant

having disclosed the lodging of FIR against him has not

concealed any fact before the High Court and he having

been selected on merit was entitled to be appointed.

Shri Venkataramani submits that on the subsequent

acquittal of the appellant on 18.09.2019 his case for

appointment was to be reconsidered by the High Court

and the High Court committed an error in not

considering the appellant for appointment. The

candidature of the appellant could not have been

cancelled merely on the ground of pendency of criminal

case. The appellant could not have been deprived of the

employment after acquittal. There was no other material

on record to indicate that antecedent or conduct of the

appellant was not upto the mark. The High Court ought

to have sent the matter back before the Higher Judicial

Service and Examination-cum-Selection Committee for

reconsideration.

8. Learned counsel for the appellant has referred to

the judgments of this Court which have been relied by
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the High Court in the impugned judgment. Learned

counsel for appellant has also placed reliance on the

judgment of this Court in Mohammed Imran vs. State of

Maharashtra and others (C.A.No.10571 of 2018) decided

on 12.10.2018. He submits that the judgment of Mohammed

Imran was also a case of a judicial officer who was

directed by this Court to be given appointment.

9. We have considered the submissions of the learned

counsel for the parties and perused the records.

10. The present is not a case where the name of the

appellant was deleted in the select list on the ground

of any concealment of criminal case against him. The

appellant has brought on the record the proceedings of

Examination-cum-Selection Committee dated 18.07.2018.

At Item No.2 of the Agenda the Committee recorded the

following decision:

“ITEM NO.02.Consideration on the matter relates
to Character Verification Reports of
selected 13 candidates of MPHJS
(District Judge-Entry Level) (Direct
from Bar) Exam-2016 & 2017, received
from Law Department, Bhopal for
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determination of their eligibility
for the said post.

1.Shri Anil Bhardwaj:-

Attestation Form submitted Shri Anil
Bhardwaj and police verification report
submitted by Deputy Commissioner of Police,
Special Branch, New Delhi, goes to show that
FIR 852/2014 under Section 498A/406/34 of IPC
has been registered against Shri Anil
Bhardwaj on the basis of complaint filed by
Smt. Pooja wife of Shri Anil Bhardwaj.

After due consideration resolved that a
case against Shri Anil Bhardwaj under Section
498A
, 406-34 IPC is still pending before
Rohini Court, New Delhi. Therefore, he is not
considered suitable for being appointed to
the post of District Judge (Entry Level).”

10. The FIR against the appellant was lodged by his

wife under Section 498A and 406 IPC in the year 2014 on

the basis of which a charge-sheet was submitted in the

Court on 15.07.2017 under Section 498A and 406 IPC. The

appellant has disclosed lodging of the FIR against him

in his online application form. The name of the

appellant was included in the select list which was

forwarded to the State. The State after character

verification submitted a report which report was
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considered on 18.07.2018 by the Administrative

Committee (Higher Judicial Service) and Examination-

cum-Selection and Appointment Committee and a

resolution was taken that due to pendency of the case

under Section 498A, 406-34 IPC on the basis of

complaint filed by the wife, Smt. Pooja, the appellant

is not considered suitable for being appointed to the

post of District Judge.

11. Before the High Court, the decision of the

Committee dated 18.07.2018 as well as the order of the

State dated 14.09.2018 for deleting the name of the

appellant was challenged in the writ petition. The main

issue to be considered was as to whether resolution

dated 18.07.2018 suffered from error which requires

judicial review by the High Court in exercise of

jurisdiction under Article 226. The submission which

has been pressed by the counsel for the appellant is

that appellant’s case was required to be reconsidered

in view of his subsequent acquittal on 18.09.2019.
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12. The recruitment to the Judicial Service is governed

by the provisions of Madhya Pradesh Uchchatar Nyayik

Seva (Bharti Tatha Seva Sharten) Niyam, 1994. This

Court issued direction to all States to fill up the

vacancies in subordinate Courts in a time schedule. The

direction was issued by this Court in Malik Mazhar

Sultan (3) and another vs. Uttar Pradesh Public Service

Commission and others, 2008(17) SCC 703. The selection

process for filling up the post of District Judge has

to be completed by all the High Courts as per the time

schedule fixed by this Court. After declaration of the

merit list the candidates have to be given appointments

in time bound manner so that they may join the

respective posts. There is no dispute that on the date

when the Committee declared the appellant unsuitable,

criminal case against him under Section 498A and 406

IPC was pending which was registered on a complaint

filed by the appellant’s wife, Smt. Pooja. The mere

inclusion in the select list does not give an

indefeasible right to a candidate. The employer has
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right to refuse appointment to the candidate included

in the select list on any valid ground. The persons who

occupy Judicial Service of the State are persons who

are expected to have impeccable character and conduct.

It is 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 which needs to be

considered is 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.

13. This Court in Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and

another vs. Mehar Singh, (2013) 7 SCC 685, while

considering a case of antecedents verification for
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appointment into Delhi Police Service made the

following observation in paragraph 35:

“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.…………”

14. The observation was made by this Court in the above

case that a candidate wishing to join the police force

must be a person having impeccable character and

integrity. The above observations apply with greater

force to the Judicial Service. This Court further

observed that even in the case of acquittal, it has to

be examined as to whether the person was completely

exonerated in the case or not. In the present case the

acquittal having taken place after the close of
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recruitment process, there was no question of examining

the acquittal order by the High Court at the time of

finalizing the selection process.

15. Learned counsel for the appellant has referred to

the judgment of this Court in Joginder Singh vs. Union

Territory of Chandigarh and others, (2015) 2 SCC 377,

which was a case whether the appellant was acquitted by

the trial court for a case under Section

148/149/323/325/307 IPC. In the above case acquittal

took place even before the appellant was called for the

interview/medical examination. This fact was recorded

in paragraph 24 of the judgment in the following words:

“24. However, in the present case, we have
observed that the appellant was involved in a
family feud and the FIR came to be lodged
against him on 14-4-1998, after he had applied
for the post of Constable. Further, he had been
acquitted on 4-10-1999 i.e. much before he was
called for the interview/medical
examination/written test………”

16. The above case is clearly distinguishable and does

not help the appellant.

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17. A three-Judge Bench of this Court in Avtar Singh

vs. Union of India and others, (2016) 8 SCC 471, had

occasion to examine different aspects of verification

form after selection including the question of having

criminal antecedents and pending of criminal case. This

Court laid down 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. In paragraph 32 following has been laid

down:

“32. No doubt about it that once
verification form requires certain information
to be furnished, declarant is duty-bound to
furnish it correctly and any suppression of
material facts or submitting false information,
may by itself lead to termination of his
services or cancellation of candidature in an
appropriate case. However, in a criminal case
incumbent has not been acquitted and case is
pending trial, employer may well be justified
in not appointing such an incumbent or in
terminating the services as conviction
ultimately may render him unsuitable for job
and employer is not supposed to wait till
outcome of criminal case. In such a case non-
disclosure or submitting false information
would assume significance and that by itself
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may be ground for employer to cancel
candidature or to terminate services.”

18. Even in a case where candidates have been acquitted

in criminal case, it was held that the decision of the

Screening Committee being not actuated by mala fide

regarding suitability of the candidate is to be

respected. This Court in Union Territory, Chandigarh

Administration and others vs. Pradeep Kumar and

another, (2018) 1 SCC 797, laid down following in

paragraphs 13 and 17:

“13. 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. From the
observations of this Court in Mehar Singh, 2013
(7) SCC 685 and Parvez Khan, 2015 (2) SCC 591
cases, it is clear that a candidate to be
recruited to the police service must be of
impeccable character and integrity. A person
having criminal antecedents will not fit in
this category. Even if he is acquitted or
discharged, it cannot be presumed that he was
honourably acquitted/completely exonerated. The
decision of the Screening Committee must be
taken as final unless it is shown to be mala
fide. The Screening Committee also must be
alive to the importance of the trust reposed in
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it and must examine the candidate with utmost
character.

17. In a catena of judgments, the importance
of integrity and high standard of conduct in
police force has been emphasised. As held in
Mehar Singh case5, the decision of the
Screening Committee must be taken as final
unless it is mala fide. In the case in hand,
there is nothing to suggest that the decision
of the Screening Committee is mala fide. The
decision of the Screening Committee that the
respondents are not suitable for being
appointed to the post of Constable does not
call for interference. The Tribunal and the
High Court, in our view, erred in setting aside
the decision of the Screening Committee and the
impugned judgment is liable to be set aside.”

19. Now, we may notice the judgment of Mohammed Imran

(supra) which has been heavily relied by the learned

counsel for the appellant. In the above case the

appellant was selected for Judicial Service whose

selection was cancelled on 04.06.2010 due to the

character verification report of the Police. Writ

petition was dismissed by the High Court. It was

contended before this court that the appellant was

acquitted of the charge under Sections 363, 366, 34 IPC

on 28.10.2004 that is much before he cleared the
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examination for appointment in the year 2009. The

appellant disclosed his prosecution and acquittal by

the Sessions Court. This Court noticed the aforesaid

fact in paragraph 9 of the judgment in the following

words:

“9. It is an undisputed fact that one Shri
Sudhir Gulabrao Barde, who had been acquitted
on 24.11.2009 in Case No.3022 of 2007 under
Sections 294, 504, 34 IPC, has been
appointed……”

20. This Court held that report received reveals that

except for the criminal case, in which he had already

been acquitted, the appellant has a clean record and

there is no adverse material against him to deny him

the fruits of his academic labour. This Court found

decision rejecting the candidature of the appellant as

untenable by making following observation in paragraph

11:

“11. In the entirety of the facts and
circumstances of the case, we are of the
considered opinion that the consideration of
the candidature of the appellant and its
rejection are afflicted by a myopic vision,
blurred by the spectacle of what has been
described as moral turpitude, reflecting
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inadequate appreciation and application of
facts also, as justice may demand.”

21. There can be no dispute that in event it is found

that decision by which the candidature of a candidate

is rejected is arbitrary or actuated by malafide such

decision can be interfered by the Constitutional

Courts. We have already noticed the judgment of this

Court in Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and

others vs. Pradeep Kumar and another (supra) that the

decision of the Screening Committee must be final

unless it is mala fide.

22. There can be no dispute to the above preposition.

But there can be other valid reasons for not sustaining

the decision of Screening Committee/ Selection

Committee apart from the ground of mala fide. Any

arbitrary decision taken by the Selection Committee can

very well be interfered by the Constitutional Courts in

exercise of Judicial Review Jurisdiction.
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23. Reverting to the facts of the present case, 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.

24. There being no infirmity in the decision dated

18.07.2018 of the Committee declaring the appellant

unsuitable for the post and consequential decision

taken by the State to delete the name of the appellant,

the High Court did not commit any error in dismissing

the writ petition. The fact that subsequently the

appellant was acquitted in the criminal case did not
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furnish sufficient ground for reconsidering the

appellant for appointment on the post.

25. One more submission advanced by learned counsel for

the petitioner needs also to be considered. The

petitioner’s contention is that the decision declaring

the petitioner unsuitable on the ground of pendency of

criminal case under Section 498A, 406 IPC was contrary

to the guidelines issued by the Government of Madhya

Pradesh for character verification dated 05.06.2003. He

submits that as per paragraph 6(viii) of the guidelines

on the acquittal on merit of the case by the Court, the

candidate will be eligible for Government service. He

submits that the above clause of the Government Order

has been breached in declaring the appellant

unsuitable.

26. The guidelines dated 05.06.2003 has been issued by

Government of Madhya Pradesh on the subject “regarding

issuing of new guidelines for character verification.”

Paragraph 6 which has been relied by the counsel for
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the appellant is regarding column 12 of the Attestation

form. It is useful to extract paragraph 6 and clause

(viii) which are as follows: –

“6. The Column 12 of the attestation form
filled for character verification by selected
candidates for government service, criminal
background, judicial case and the information
about acquittal or conviction in it, willfully
or erroneously or ignorantly kept vacant
subject to qualification for appointment in
government service taking into consideration
the policy as per rules by the state government
with immediate effect decisions have been
taken.

(i)……… ………… ……………
………… ………… ……………

(viii) On the acquittal on merit of the
case by the Hon’ble Court, the candidate
will be eligible for government service.”

27. Clause (viii) on which the reliance is placed

contemplates that the candidate who has been acquitted

on merit by the Court will be eligible for the

Government service. The aforesaid contemplation relates

to at the time of character verification. Thus, at the

time of character verification, if a candidate is found

to be acquitted on merits by the Court, the candidate

shall be treated to be eligible for Government Service.
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The above clause (viii) as quoted above cannot come to

the rescue of the appellant who at the time of

character verification or at the time of consideration

of the case of the appellant by the committee on

18.07.2018 had not been acquitted. Had the appellant in

column 12 had mentioned about the acquittal or at the

time of character verification it was found that the

candidate has been acquitted on merit by the Court,

Clause 6(viii) would have been attracted but in the

present case the said clause is not attracted since at

the time of character verification the appellant had

not been acquitted and he was acquitted after more than

a year from rejection of his candidature.

28. Learned counsel for the appellant lastly has

contended that due to deletion of the name of appellant

from select list a stigma is attached to him, for

removal of which this Court may issue notice in this

SLP. As noted above, the appellant having already been

acquitted by the judgment dated 18.09.2019 stigma of

criminal case has already washed out and the criminal
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case having resulted in acquittal no stigma is attached

to the appellant’s name on the above ground. The

apprehension of the learned counsel for the appellant

that a stigma shall continue with the name of the

appellant is misconceived, stigma, if any, is already

over by acquittal.

29. We, thus, are of the view that the High Court did

not commit any error in dismissing the writ petition.

The appellant was not entitled for any relief in the

writ petition. In the result, while dismissing this

appeal we observe that stigma, if any, of the criminal

case lodged against appellant under Section 498A/406/34

IPC is washed out due to the acquittal of the appellant

vide judgment dated 18.09.2019.

………………….J.

[ASHOK BHUSHAN]

………………….J.

[M.R. SHAH]

NEW DELHI;

OCTOBER 13, 2020.



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