The Supreme Court held that the respondent's suppression of his involvement in a past criminal case, despite being acquitted prior to the verification process, constituted a serious offense. The Court emphasized the importance of candidates providing complete and truthful information about any criminal cases, arrests, or convictions, as required by the verification process of any examination. In this case, the Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu, Chennai, filed an appeal against the final judgment passed by the Division Bench of the High Court. The respondent had been selected for the post of Grade-II Constable after qualifying the written test. However, during the verification process, it was discovered that he was involved in a criminal case and had been acquitted.

A two judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Pankaj Mithal held, “though the respondent may be eligible for appointment but since he has not disclosed the complete information with regard to his involvement in a criminal case, wherein he might have been acquitted earlier even before verification, he cannot escape the guilt of suppressing the material information as required by column 15 of the verification roll. Keeping in mind that the respondent was a candidate for recruitment to a disciplined force, the non-disclosure of the information of his involvement in the criminal case and subsequent acquittal therefrom cast a serious doubt upon his character and the antecedents which is sufficient enough to disentitle him from employment.”

The issue before the Court was whether the respondent had suppressed this information about his involvement in the criminal case, which was required to be disclosed during the verification process.

Advocate Sabarish Subramanian appeared for the Appellant and Advocate Astha Tyagi appeared for the Respondent.

The Court noted that the relevant rule, Rule 14(b) of the Tamil Nadu Special Police Subordinate Service Rules, 1978, stated that a candidate must have a character and antecedents qualifying him for the service. The Court noted, “The aforesaid column in unequivocal terms inquires from the candidate about his involvement in any criminal case whether in past or present and unaffected by its status or result. 11. The respondent in filling up the said verification roll in reply to the query made in the aforesaid column stated ‘NO’ meaning thereby he clearly stated that he had not been involved in any criminal case.”

The Court further added, “The respondent instead of giving the full and complete information as above simply stated ‘NO’ as if he was never involved in any criminal case. The answer of the respondent to the question posed in column 15 of the verification roll undoubtedly conveys the wrong information and amounts to the suppression of the correct information.”

The Court held that the suppression of this material information was a serious offense, regardless of the nature of the acquittal. The Court said, “The respondent has certainly not disclosed the correct information. His honorable acquittal or acquittal by giving benefit of doubt is not material and relevant but what is relevant is the full and complete disclosure of the information regarding his involvement in a criminal case which has been suppressed by him.” The Court emphasized that candidates must provide true and complete information regarding any criminal cases, arrests, or convictions. Even if a candidate truthfully declared such information, the employer had the right to consider their antecedents and was not compelled to appoint them.

The Court said that the respondent's failure to disclose his involvement in the criminal case, even though he was acquitted before verification, raised serious doubts about his character and antecedents. Therefore, the Court set aside the Division Bench's judgment, reinstating the Single Judge's decision to dismiss the writ petition.

The appeal was allowed, and the writ petition was dismissed without any order as to costs.

Cause Title: The Director General Of Police Tamil Nadu v. J. Raghunees, [2023 INSC 944]

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