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Undertrial can be MP, but not cop: SC

India on 04 July 2013
Location : New Delhi, India | Source : Times of India. Image Source: Times of India

NEW DELHI: A person facing murder trial can contest elections, become an MP and even a minister in the Union government, but pendency of a criminal case will not entitle him to a job in the lowest rung of a police force.

This is the gist of the Supreme Court's ruling, which set aside concurrent judgments of the Central Administrative Tribunal and the Delhi high court allowing a person, who was booked for rioting and assaulting but was acquitted after reaching a compromise with the victims, to join
Delhi Police as constable.

A bench of Justices G S Singhvi and Ranjana P Desai on Tuesday said, "A candidate wishing to join the police force must be a person of utmost rectitude. He must have impeccable character and integrity. A person having criminal antecedents will not fit in this category."

Justice Desai, who authored the judgment for the bench, added, "Even if he is acquitted or discharged in the criminal case, that acquittal or discharge order will have to be examined to see whether he has been completely exonerated in the case because even a possibility of his taking to a life of crime poses a threat to the discipline of the police force."

One Mehar Singh and his associates assaulted a bus conductor in 2004 on being asked to purchase tickets. They also broke the window panes and assaulted passengers who came to the conductor's rescue. But the aggressors reached a compromise with the victims and were acquitted by the trial court in 2009, the year when Delhi Police advertised for recruitment of constables.

Mehar Singh cleared the physical test, written examination and interview. But the screening committee, which examined his antecedents, observed that he and his associates had assaulted the bus conductor with iron chain, belt and stones in a pre-planned manner and caused injuries to him. This showed Mehar Singh's violent nature and scant respect for the law of the land, the screening committee inferred and did not recommend his case for appointment as constable.

Singh challenged it successfully before CAT, which ordered Delhi Police to take him. Delhi Police's appeal was rejected by the high court. But additional solicitor general Rakesh Khanna argued before the 
Supreme Court that the acquittal was not as honourable as was being projected by Singh and pleaded that recruitment of such persons could lower the moral of police to tackle criminals.

Accepting his argument, the bench of Justices Singhvi and Desai said, "The police force is a disciplined force. It shoulders the great responsibility of maintaining law and order and public order in society. People repose great faith and confidence in it. It must be worthy of that confidence."

The bench lamented that in the recent past, the image of police had taken a beating because of wayward behaviour and misuse of power. "In such a situation, we would not like to dilute the importance and efficacy of a mechanism like the screening committee created by Delhi Police to ensure that persons who are likely to erode its credibility do not enter the police force," it said.

The bench also took serious note of allegations that persons involved in serious offences had been recommended for appointment as constables by the same screening committee and wanted the Delhi Police commissioner to inquire into it.

"It is for the commissioner of police, Delhi to examine whether the screening committee has compromised the interest of the police force in any case and to take remedial action if he finds that it has done so. Public interest demands an in-depth examination of this allegation at the highest level. Perhaps, such deviations from the policy are responsible for the spurt in police excesses," the apex court said.

"We expect the commissioner of police, Delhi to look into the matter and if there is substance in the allegations to take necessary steps forthwith so that policy incorporated in the standing order is strictly implemented," it said.

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