Recourse available to employer in case of suppression of fact of criminal antecedent by the employee’ discussed; Matter placed before appropriate bench

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Ranjana Gogoi, Arun Mishra and P.C. Pantt, JJ was called to resolve 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., (2012) 8 SCC 748 where the Court had considered opinions 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.

The Court, before placing the matter before the appropriate larger bench, considered the conflicting decisions and gave elaborate guidelines. Some of the important guidelines are as follows:

  • 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, and the Government orders/instructions/rules, applicable to the employee, at the time of taking the decision while giving such information.
  • The appropriate recourse in case of suppression or false information will be as follows:
  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.
  2. Where conviction has been recorded in case which is not trivial in nature, employer may cancel candidature or terminate services of the employee.
  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 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.
  • The employer has the right to consider antecedents even when the employee has made declaration truthfully of a concluded criminal case, and cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate.
  • 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.
  • 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 if the employee is confirmed in service.

However, the Court said that 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 submitting false information as to a fact which was not even asked for. [Avtar Singh v. Union of India, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 726, decided on 21.07.2016]

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