Cruelty to a woman at her matrimonial home as per a complaint under Section 498A of IPC annulled her advocate husband’s selection as a district judge and the Supreme Court said the Madhya Pradesh high court committed no mistake in rescinding his selection on the ground of pendency of the criminal case.
Limiting the applicability of the exalted judicial principle “innocent till proven guilty” to selection of judicial officers, a bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and M R Shah said, “The decision of the examination-cum-selection and appointment committee for holding the appellant unsuitable was based on the relevant consideration, that is, a criminal case against the appellant under Section 498A/406/34 IPC was pending consideration which was registered on a complaint filed by the wife of the appellant.”
Subsequent acquittal of the advocate ordered by the trial court in the case also did not come to his rescue as the SC bench said at the relevant time of selection and prior to appointment, the case was pending against the selected candidate. The clock can’t be turned back, the court said.
Writing the judgment, Justice Bhushan said, “Such a decision of the committee was well within the jurisdiction and power of the committee and cannot be said to be unsustainable. The mere fact that subsequently, after more than a year, when the person whose candidature has been cancelled has been acquitted cannot be a ground to turn the clock backward. The fact that subsequently, the advocate was acquitted in the criminal case did not furnish sufficient ground for reconsidering the appellant for appointment on the post.”
Senior advocate R Venkataramani, appearing for the advocate, argued that due to deletion of the appellant’s name from the selection list, a stigma was attached to him, and the SC must entertain his appeal against the HC order for removal of the stigma. He also said the advocate should not lose the opportunity to become a district judge as he had disclosed to the appointment committee about the pendency of FIR lodged by his wife against him, in which he was subsequently acquitted.
The bench said, “The appellant having already been acquitted by the judgment dated September 18, 2019, the stigma of criminal case has already washed out and the criminal case having resulted in acquittal, no stigma is attached to the appellant’s name on the above ground. The apprehension of the counsel for the appellant that a stigma shall continue with the name of the appellant is misconceived, as stigma, if any, is already over by acquittal.”