AVTAR SINGH Vs. UNION OF INDIA
LAWS(SC)-2016-7-75
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
Decided on July 21,2016

AVTAR SINGH Appellant
VERSUS
UNION OF INDIA Respondents

JUDGEMENT

- (1.) The cases have been referred to for resolving the conflict of opinion in the various decisions of Division Benches of this Court as noticed by this Court in Jainendra Singh v. State of U. P. through Principal Secretary, Home & Ors., 2012 8 SCC 748. The Court has considered the cleavage of opinion in various decisions on the question of suppression of information or submitting false information in the verification form as to the question of having been criminally prosecuted, arrested or as to pendency of a criminal case. A Division Bench of this Court has expressed the opinion on merits while referring the matter as to the various principles to be borne in mind before granting relief to an aggrieved party. Following is the relevant observation made by a Division Bench of this Court : "29. As noted by us, all the above decisions were rendered by a Division Bench of this Court consisting of two Judges and having bestowed our serious consideration to the issue, we consider that while dealing with such an issue, the Court will have to bear in mind the various cardinal principles before granting any relief to the aggrieved party, namely: 29.1. Fraudulently obtained orders of appointment could be legitimately treated as voidable at the option of the employer or could be recalled by the employer and in such cases merely because the respondent employee has continued in service for a number of years, on the basis of such fraudulently obtained employment, cannot get any equity in his favour or any estoppel against the employer. 29.2. Verification of the character and antecedents is one of the important criteria to test whether the selected candidate is suitable to the post under the State and on account of his antecedents the appointing authority if finds it not desirable to appoint a person to a disciplined force can it be said to be unwarranted. 29.3. When appointment was procured by a person on the basis of forged documents, it would amount to misrepresentation and fraud on the employer and, therefore, it would create no equity in his favour or any estoppel against the employer while resorting to termination without holding any inquiry. 29.4. A candidate having suppressed material information and/or giving false information cannot claim right to continue in service and the employer, having regard to the nature of employment as well as other aspects, has the discretion to terminate his services. 29.5. The purpose of calling for information regarding involvement in any criminal case or detention or conviction is for the purpose of verification of the character/antecedents at the time of recruitment and suppression of such material information will have a clear bearing on the character and antecedents of the candidate in relation to his continuity in service. 29.6. The person who suppressed the material information and/or gives false information cannot claim any right for appointment or continuity in service. 29.7. The standard expected of a person intended to serve in uniformed service is quite distinct from other services and, therefore, any deliberate statement or omission regarding a vital information can be seriously viewed and the ultimate decision of the appointing authority cannot be faulted. 29.8. An employee on probation can be discharged from service or may be refused employment on the ground of suppression of material information or making false statement relating to his involvement in the criminal case, conviction or detention, even if ultimately he was acquitted of the said case, inasmuch as such a situation would make a person undesirable or unsuitable for the post. 29.9. An employee in the uniformed service presupposes a higher level of integrity as such a person is expected to uphold the law and on the contrary such a service born in deceit and subterfuge cannot be tolerated. 29.10. The authorities entrusted with the responsibility of appointing constables, are under duty to verify the antecedents of a candidate to find out whether he is suitable for the post of a constable and so long as the candidate has not been acquitted in the criminal case, he cannot be held to be suitable for appointment to the post of constable. 30. When we consider the above principles laid down in the majority of the decisions, the question that looms large before us is when considering such claim by the candidates who deliberately suppressed information at the time of recruitment, can there be different yardsticks applied in the matter of grant of relief. 31. Though there are very many decisions in support of the various points culled out in the above paragraphs, inasmuch as we have noted certain other decisions taking different view of coordinate Benches, we feel it appropriate to refer the abovementioned issues to a larger Bench of this Court for an authoritative pronouncement so that there will be no conflict of views and which will enable the courts to apply the law uniformly while dealing with such issues."
(2.) This Court while referring the matter had expressed the opinion that in case an appointment order has been secured fraudulently, the appointment is voidable at the option of the employer and the employee cannot get any equity in his favour and no estoppel is created against the employer only by the fact that the employee has continued in service for a number of years. It has been further observed that if appointment is secured on forged documents, it would amount to misrepresentation and fraud. The employer has a right to terminate the services on suppression of important information or giving false information, having regard to nature of employment. Verification of character and antecedents is important if the employer has found an incumbent to be undesirable for appointment to a disciplined force. It cannot be said to be unwarranted. The Court thus further opined that suppression of material information necessary for verification of character/antecedents will have a clear bearing on character and antecedents of a candidate in relation to his continuity in service and such a person cannot claim a right for appointment or continuity in service. The Bench was of the view that in uniformed service, suppression or false information can be viewed seriously as it requires higher level of integrity and the employer is supposed to find out before an appointment is made that criminal case has come to an end and pendency of a case would serve as a bar for appointment and in such cases of suppression whether different yardsticks can be applied as noted in the various decisions of this Court. The question which has been referred to arises frequently and there are catena of decisions taking one view or the other on the facts of the case. It would be appropriate to refer to the various decisions rendered by this Court; some of them have been referred to in the impugned order.
(3.) It cannot be disputed that the whole idea of verification of character and antecedents is that the person suitable for the post in question is appointed. It is one of the important criteria which is necessary to be fulfilled before appointment is made. An incumbent should not have antecedents of such a nature which may adjudge him unsuitable for the post. Mere involvement in some petty kind of case would not render a person unsuitable for the job. Way back in the year 1983, in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Ramashanker Raghuvanshi & Anr., 1983 2 SCC 145, where a teacher was employed in a municipal school which was taken over by the Government and who was absorbed in Government service in 1972 subject to verification of antecedents and medical fitness. The termination order was passed on the basis of a report made by the Superintendent of Police to the effect that the respondent was not a fit person to be entertained in Government service, as he had taken part in 'RSS and Jan Sangh activities'. There was no allegation of involvement in subversive activities. It was held that such activities were not likely to affect the integrity of individual's service. To hold otherwise would be to introduce 'McCarthyism' into India which is not healthy to the philosophy of our Constitution. It was observed by this Court that most students and most youngmen who take part in political activities and if they do get involved in some form of agitation or the other, is it to be to their ever lasting discredit Sometimes they feel strongly on injustice and resist. They are sometimes pushed into the forefront by elderly persons who lead and mislead them. Should all these young men be debarred from public employment Is Government service such a heaven that only angels should seek entry into it This Court has laid down that the whole business of seeking Police report about the political belief and association of the past political activities of a candidate for public employment is repugnant to the basic rights guaranteed by the Constitution. This Court has considered in Ramashanker Raghuvanshi's case the decision in Garner v. Board of Public Works 341 US 716 thus : "5. In another loyalty oath case, Garner v. Board of Public Works 341 US 716, Douglas, J. had this to say : Here the past conduct for which punishment is exacted is single advocacy within the past five years of the overthrow of the Government by force and violence. In the other cases the acts for which Cummings and Garland stood condemned covered a wider range and involved some conduct which might be vague and uncertain. But those differences, seized on here in hostility to the constitutional provisions, are wholly irrelevant. Deprivation of a man's means of livelihood by reason of past conduct, not subject to this penalty when committed, is punishment whether he is a professional man, a day laborer who works for private industry, or a Government employee. The deprivation is nonetheless unconstitutional whether it be for one single past act or a series of past acts Petitioners were disqualified from office not for what they are today, not because of any program they currently espouse (cf. Gerende v. Board of Supervisors 341 US 56), not because of standards related to fitness for the office, cf Dent v. West Virginia 129 US 114; Hawker v. New York 170 US 189, but for what they once advocated 6. In the same case, Frankfurter, J. observed : The needs of security do not require such curbs on what may well be innocuous feelings and associations. Such curbs are indeed self-defeating. They are not merely unjustifiable restraints on individuals. They are not merely productive of an atmosphere or repression uncongenial to the spiritual vitality of a democratic society. The inhibitions which they engender are hostile to the best conditions for securing a high-minded and high-spirited public service. x x x x x 10. We are not for a moment suggesting that even after entry into government service, a person may engage himself in political activities. All that we say is that he cannot be turned back at the very threshold on the ground of his past political activities. Once he becomes a government servant, he becomes subject to the various rules regulating his conduct and his activities must naturally be subject to all rules made in conformity with the Constitution." At the same time, this Court has also observed that after entry into Government service, a person has to abide by the service rules in conformity with the Constitution.;


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