Can’t sack employee for suppression of criminal case: Supreme Court

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Suppression of a criminal case, in which a person was falsely implicated and honourably acquitted, by an employee while joining a service cannot be a ground for termination of job by the employer, the Supreme Court has held.

A bench of Justices Ajay Rastogi and Sanjiv Khanna said mere suppression of material or giving false information regarding a criminal case cannot be a ground of termination of job and sacking should depend on the nature and seriousness of the charge and also whether it resulted in conviction or acquittal. It said suppression of a case which is trivial in nature would not justify termination.

The court ordered restoration of the job for a Railway Protection Force official who was terminated after the department came to know that he didn’t inform them about a criminal case against him while joining the force. Although he was wrongly implicated in the case and honourably acquitted on the very first hearing of trial proceedings, the department held that suppression was sufficient enough for sacking him irrespective of the nature of the case and his acquittal. The Delhi HC also approved the termination.

Referring to several SC judgments, the bench said, “What emerges from the exposition as laid down by this court is that by mere suppression of material/false information regardless of the fact whether there is a conviction or acquittal has been recorded, the employee/recruit is not to be discharged/terminated axiomatically from service just by a stroke of pen”.

“At the same time, the effect of suppression of material/false information involving in a criminal case, if any, is left for the employer to consider all the relevant facts and circumstances available as to antecedents and keeping in view the objective criteria and the relevant service rules into consideration, while taking appropriate decision regarding continuance/suitabi- lity of the employee into service. What being noticed by this court is that mere suppression of material/false information in a given case does not mean that the employer can arbitrarily discharge/terminate the employee from service,” it said.
The bench said all matters can’t be put in a straitjacket and a degree of flexibility and discretion vests with authorities and must be exercised with care and caution taking all the facts and circumstances into consideration, including the nature and type of lapse.

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