Supreme Court Says Decision of Screening Committee for District Judge Post Final Unless Malafide or Arbitrary

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Supreme Court in Anil Bhardwaj v HC of Madhya Pradesh held that as long as the decision of the Screening Committee is not mala fide or arbitrary, it will be final. A division bench comprising of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice MR Shah heard this application.

Brief Facts

The Petitioner had applied for Direct Recruitment to District Judge. (Entry Level)After passing the Main Examination, the committee selected the appellant for the post. But, on 14.09.2018 he was informed that an order has been issued by the Principal Secretary of Madhya Pradesh, Law and Legislative Department. It declared the appellant ineligible and directed deletion of the name of the appellant from the select list. A Gazette notification was also issued deleting the name. This was done because a criminal proceeding was pending against him. It was filed by his wife on the grounds of cruelty under S 498, S. 406, and S. 34 of IPC.

The Appellant filed a Writ Petition in the High Court against the order and Gazette notification. During the pendency of the proceeding vide a judgment dated 18.09.2019 he was acquitted of the charges against him in the criminal proceedings. He filed a fresh application with the leave of the Court bringing the aforementioned on record. This was dismissed.

Aggrieved by the same, the Appellant has approached this Court.

Arguments

The Counsel for the Appellant submits that the Appellant had already disclosed the FIR against him. He had not concealed any material fact. He was selected on merit and hence entitled to the appointment.

Further, the High Court committed an error in not considering the appellant for the appointment.

Also, the candidature of the appellant could not have been cancelled on the ground of pendency of the criminal case. And it is wrong to deprive of employment after the acquittal.

Additionally, there is no other material on record to state that the antecedent or conduct of the appellant was not up to the mark.

It is also contended that this decision is contrary to paragraph 6(viii) of the Guidelines issued by the Govt. of MP.

Finally, the Counsel submits that the High Court ought to have sent the matter back before the Higher Judicial Service and Examination-cum-Selection Committee for reconsideration.

Court’s Observations

The Court analyzed the materials on record and referred to case laws like Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and another vs. Mehar Singh, (2013) 7 SCC 685, Joginder Singh vs. Union Territory of Chandigarh and others, (2015) 2 SCC 377, Avtar Singh vs. Union of India and others, (2016) 8 SCC 471, etc. 

The Court further states that there is no dispute that on the date when the Committee declared the appellant unsuitable, a criminal case against him was. The mere inclusion in the select list does not give an indefeasible right to a candidate. The employer has the right to refuse appointment to the candidate included in the select list on any valid ground.

“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 Court discuss the aforementioned case of Avtar Singh and said that the Court laid down that in the event a criminal case is pending and the incumbent has not been acquitted employer may well be justified in not appointing such an incumbent.

Further, the Court cited the aforementioned case of Joginder Singh where the Court laid down that, “even if he is acquitted or discharged, it cannot be presumed that he was 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 it and must examine the candidate with utmost character.”

About the present case, the Court opined that the decision of the Screening Committee was based on valid grounds i.e. the pending criminal case against the accused. Nothing shows arbitrariness and malfeasance on part of the Committee. Hence, the decision of the Committee was well within its jurisdiction and power. The mere fact that after more than a year the appellant was acquitted, the decision cannot be reversed. Thus, the High Court committed no error. 

Court’s Decision

The Bench upholds the decision of the Committee and stated that the High Court did not commit any error in dismissing the Writ Petition. Further, if any stigma was attached to the criminal case, it had been washed off with the acquittal, and no more relief is warranted.

Click here to view the Judgement.


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