Appointment to judicial services can be denied having regard to past criminal record

High Court of Bombay: While examining the legality and validity of the order/opinion passed by the Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee, the Division Bench comprising of SC Dharmadhikari and BP Colabawalla, JJ., upholding the order/opinion, held that the petition filed by the lawyer under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking his appointment to the post of Civil Judge, Junior Division and Judicial Magistrate, First Class and to set aside the above order/opinion stands dismissed. The Court stated that the opinion/order of the Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee does not suffer from any infirmity and can neither be termed as perverse since it is passed having regard to the nature of allegations leveled against the petitioner which were of a serious nature and not that could be classified as being petty thereby hindering his name to be recommended by the Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee for judicial service despite the petitioners name appearing in the merit list.

The Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee has come to a conclusion and taken such a decision after considering the criminal case filed against the petitioner earlier, in which he was acquitted of the charges however, the nature of these charges was serious i,e, he was accused of committing offences describe under Sections 324, 504 of the Penal Code, 1860. The contention of the petitioner’s counsel  that the criminal case filed against the petitioner was a was “completely frivolous” and was “instituted due to personal enmity with the complainant in the case” was struck down. On perusing the judgment of acquittal, it can be seen that it was not a clean acquittal but on the ground of reasonable doubt since the prosecution had failed to prove its case beyond reasonable doubt which itself created a doubt about the guilt of the petitioner.

The Court relying on  Union Territory of Chandigarh v. Dilbagh Singh, (1993) 1 SCC 154, as well as the Maharashtra Judicial Service Rules, 2008, observed that a candidate in the select list / merit list does not acquire a fundamental or an indefeasible right to be appointed in such post and he cannot be aggrieved by his non-appointment except when the administration does so either arbitrary or for no bonafide reasons. The Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee has acted in a bonafide manner, after considering the functions that a member of the judicial service is require to carry out has not recommended the name of the petitioner since the charges leveled against the petitioner were of serious nature thereby not making him a suitable candidate to be appointed in judicial service as he was not someone with an “unbelemished character.”

The Court dismissed the petition relying on the decision in Avtar Singh v. Union of India, (2016) 8 SCC 471,where the Supreme Court has clearly stated that though the candidate may have been acquitted of the charges of serious nature and not involving offence of petty nature, the employer is bound to consider the grounds of acquittal and various other aspects to form an opinion as to the fitness of the candidate for appointment. On applying the ratio laid down in the above case to the facts of the present case the Court observed that the charges leveled against the petitioner were of a serious nature and not that could be classified as being petty hence a candidate like a petitioner, who is applying for judicial services, would have to live up to and meet even higher standards than any other candidate applying for a job with the Government or other civil services. Therefore,the order/opinion of the Hon’ble Administrative Judges’ Committee for not recommending the name of the petitioner for the post of Civil Judge, Junior Division and Judicial Magistrate, First Class does not suffer from any infirmity and can neither be termed as perverse or suffering from any error. [Vithal Waman Shelke v. The High Court of Bombay, 2016 SCC OnLine Bom 9129, decided on 14th October 2016]

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