The Karnataka High Court recently refused to quash a cheating case filed against a lawyer who failed to disclose information regarding criminal cases against him while applying for the post of district judge [Palaksha SS v The State and Anr].
In an order dated November 18, Justice M Nagaprasanna observed that the petitioner (lawyer) had been practicing law for close to 13 years before applying for the post. Hence, the petitioner could not take the defence that he had not understood the query in the application form, the Court said.
“It is to be noticed that the petitioner is a practicing Advocate for close to 13 years prior to submitting his application for the post of District Judge. He cannot be compared to an applicant who has applied for a Group-D post who can take shelter that by inadvertence he has not answered the query by properly understanding it,” the Court’s order stated.
The Court also rejected the petitioner’s argument that the offence of cheating under Section 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) cannot be invoked in this case since a job appointment was not “property.”
The Court relied on other High Court decisions in State Of UP v Ram Dhani Pande and Premlata vs State Of Rajasthan to reiterate that an appointment letter is “property” for the purpose of interpreting Section 420 of the IPC.
The petitioner applied for the post of district judge in October 2019 and was one of three candidates who were recommended for appointment in August 2020.
However, an anonymous complaint reached the High Court at this juncture, alleging that the petitioner had concealed information regarding the criminal cases he was involved in.
Following two show cause notices and a personal hearing, the selection committee resolved to terminate the petitioner’s candidature and register a criminal complaint against him.
A cheating case was, therefore, filed against the petitioner who challenged the same before the High Court.
The petitioner admitted that there were cases pending against him in the past, but not on the date of the recruitment notification or when the examination was held. He also informed that all the cases had ended either in acquittal or were settled before the Lok Adalat.
Further, he stated that out of nine cases mentioned in the show cause notices, he was the complainant in four.
He argued that it was never his intention to cheat and that he had misunderstood the query in the application form to mean that the information being sought was about whether there were any cases currently pending against him.
On the other hand, counsel for the High Court’s Joint Registrar of GOB-I branch contended that the petitioner had induced the committee to consider his candidature. Another candidate would have made it to the select list if the petitioner had not been recommended for selection, the counsel pointed out. Such an inducement was dishonest right from the start, the counsel added.
The Court noted that the query in the application form asked whether the petitioner “was/is” involved in criminal cases.
Therefore, the petitioner could not feign ignorance as the application clearly stated that past cases also had to be disclosed, the Court said.
Further, citing the Supreme Court’s verdict in The State Of Tamil Nadu vs G. Hemalathaa, the Court reiterated instructions issued for recruitment to the post of a civil judge were mandatory and to be followed with strict compliance.
Therefore, the Court dismissed the petitioner’s plea and refused to quash the cheating case pending against him.
The petitioner was represented by Senior Advocate KN Phanindra and advocate Manjunath Gowda.
The State was represeted by High Court Government Pleader KP Yashodha.
The High Court’s Joint Registrar of GOB-I branch was represented by Senior Advocate SS Nagananda and advocate Krishna S.