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The Supreme Court on Friday emphasised that crimes committed when one is a juvenile must not be held against a person into adulthood, particularly when it comes to future job prospects. It was observed,
“The thrust of the legislation, i.e. The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 as well as The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 is that even if a juvenile is convicted, the same should be obliterated, so that there is no stigma with regard to any crime committed by such person as a juvenile. This is with the clear object to reintegrate such juvenile back in the society as a normal person, without any stigma.”
The judgment was rendered by a Bench of Justices UU Lalit and Vineet Saran, while dismissing an appeal filed by the Central Government in a matter concerning employment in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF).
The Government had earlier denied appointment as Sub-Inspector in the CISF to one, Ramesh Bishnoi after taking note of a criminal complaint registered against him under Sections 354 (assault with intend to outrage the modesty of a woman), 447 (criminal trespass) and 509 (insult to outrage the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) in 2009. Bishnoi was a minor when the complaint was filed.
While applying for employment with the CISF, Bishnoi had disclosed that the complaint was registered. However, it was also informed that the case was later dropped for lack of evidence. Nevertheless, he was denied appointment by the authorities, prompting him to approach the Rajasthan High Court for relief.
On the High Court’s direction, the question of his appointment was reconsidered by the Government. However, the authority found him unsuitable for employment in the CISF again, leading to another challenge before the High Court. A Single Bench, and thereafter a Division Bench, eventually ruled in Bishnoi’s favour, directing that his employment be activated by the Government. Aggrieved, the Central Government approach the Supreme Court on further appeal.
The Court, in turn, found that even if Bishnoi had been convicted of the IPC charges, such conviction cannot be held against him since the incident dated back to when he was minor. The Bench noted,
“Even if the allegations were found to be true, then too the respondent could not have been deprived of getting a job on the basis of such charges as the same had been committed while the respondent was juvenile … It is also not disputed that he was acquitted of the charges. However, even if he had been convicted, the same could not have been held against him for getting a job, as admittedly he was a minor when the alleged offences were committed and the charges had been framed against him
While this was the case, the Court also appreciated that Bishnoi had not suppressed the fact of the criminal complaint in his application. The Court observed,
“… it cannot be said that the respondent had committed such a crime, which would be covered under the definition of moral turpitude, specially when the respondent is said to have committed the alleged offence when he was a minor…
… the case against the respondent is not with regard to the suppression of any conviction or charges having been framed against him. The respondent had very fairly disclosed about the charges which had been framed and his acquittal on the basis of no evidence having been adduced by the complainant against the respondent.”
In view of these observations, the Court dismissed the appeal and directed that Bishnoi be inducted into service. It held,
“The respondent shall be entitled to all the benefits of the judgment of the writ Court within 30 days from today.”
[Read the Judgment]