Acquittal in criminal trial is not conclusive of exoneration of criminal guilt for purpose of recruitment in police force

Supreme Court: While deciding the question that whether a rejection of an application for recruitment in police force, on grounds of “criminal antecedents” with respect to an acquittal for want of evidence is maintainable, the bench comprising of T.S. Thakur and Adarsh Kumar Goel, JJ said that acquittal on technical grounds or compounding does not amount to exoneration of guilt,thus it is not an “honourable acquittal” and the same can be questioned by a screening committee for recruitment in police force.

In the present case the respondent, had applied for a post in Madhya Pradesh police on “compassionate grounds” which was rejected by superintendent of police owing to respondent’s involvement in criminal cases. The counsel for the respondent cited the guidelines by State of M.P. Dated 5 June 2003 for character verification of applicant  of government services and said the same do not justify the rejection of application of respondent on the face of the fact that he did not concealed his involvement in such cases.

 The Court relied on the observation of the Court in Commissioner of Police v. Mehar Singh, (2013) 7 SCC 685, and said that only screening committee has the experience to decide suitability of such candidates. The principle in departmental inquiry is preponderance of probability in wake of which an acquittal in criminal trial based on technical grounds cannot be termed as “honourable acquittal” and is deemed to be questioned. Police force is a disciplined force and people with questionable rectitude should be stopped from entering right from point of entry, that is, point of recruitment. In absence of any mala fides by appointing authority, its decision rejecting application, cannot be termed irrational.

The Court further dismissed the plea of parity based on other cases and said that Article 14 of Constitution embodies a positive concept and the same cannot be appealed for illegal claims as the doctrine does not envisage negative equality.(State of M.P. V. Parvez Khan2014 SCC OnLine SC 957, decided on 01.12.2014)

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