Moral Turpitude cannot be mechanically invoked to deny appointment to Public Services, Supreme Court

Moral Turpitude cannot be mechanically invoked to deny appointment to Public Services, Supreme Court

Meera Emmanuel

The Supreme Court recently reiterated that the ground of moral turpitude cannot be mechanically invoked to deny appointments to public services.

While allowing the appeal filed by a candidate aggrieved for being denied appointment to the judicial services on citing such grounds, the Bench of Justices Kurian JosephSanjay Kishan Kaul and Navin Sinha emphasised the need to appreciate individual facts and circumstances in each case before making such decisions.

The appellant in this case had been acquitted of charges of kidnapping and related offences prior to his taking and clearing the exam for judicial services. In his attestation forms, the appellant had duly disclosed that he had been charged and thereafter acquitted for these offences.

Later, he also cleared the interview round and was recommended for appointment by the Maharashtra Public Service Commission in 2009.

However, in June 2010, the appellant was denied appointment on account of an adverse character certificate given by the police citing moral turpitude based on his kidnapping charges.

On appeal, the Supreme Court faulted the authority for having denied the appellant appointment merely on account of his having been charged of the offence. It observed,

Undoubtedly, judicial service is very different from other services and the yardstick of suitability that may apply to other services, may not be the same for a judicial service. But there cannot be any mechanical or rhetorical incantation of moral turpitude, to deny appointment in judicial service simplicitor. Much will depend on the facts of a case.”

The Bench was prompted to conclude that the authorities had not applied their mind before denying the appellant judicial appointment, more so after it found that the appellant did not have any other criminal antecedents to his name apart from kidnapping charges he was acquitted of. This was revealed by a confidential report furnished before the Court in March this year. As noted in the judgment,

“… except for the criminal case under reference in which he has been acquitted, the appellant has a clean record and there is no adverse material against him to deny him the fruits of his academic labour in a competitive selection for the post of a judicial officer.

In our opinion, no reasonable person on the basis of the materials placed before us can come to the conclusion that the antecedents and character of the appellant are such that he is unfit to be appointed as a judicial officer. An alleged single misadventure or misdemeanour of the present nature, if it can be considered to be so, cannot be sufficient to deny appointment to the appellant when he has on all other aspects and parameters been found to be fit for appointment.”

The Court also noted that another candidate who had also been charged and later acquitted of criminal offences, albeit those related to a verbal altercation, was allowed appointment without such objection. In view of the same, the Court did not find any reason to deny appointment to the appellant alone.

We are not convinced, that in the facts and circumstances of the present case, the appellant could be discriminated and denied appointment arbitrarily when both the appointments were in judicial service, by the same selection procedure, of persons who faced criminal prosecutions and were acquitted. The distinction sought to be drawn by the respondents, that the former was not involved in a case of moral turpitude does not leave us convinced.”

Therefore, the Bench set aside the rejection of the appellant’s proposed appointment after noting that,

“… the consideration of the candidature of the appellant and its rejection are afflicted by a myopic vision, blurred by the spectacle of what has been described as moral turpitude, reflecting inadequate appreciation and application of facts also, as justice may demand.”

The authorities were directed to consider the appellant’s candidature afresh, preferably within a period of eight weeks. The Court also made it clear that the appellant would not be entitled to any other reliefs, if his appointment is allowed.

In order to avoid any future litigation on seniority or otherwise, we make it clear that in the event of appointment, the appellant shall not be entitled to any other reliefs.

Read the Judgment:

Bar and Bench - Indian Legal news