Non-disclosure of material information could be grounds for termination of services: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reiterated that non-disclosure of material information in itself could be grounds for termination of employment or termination of service.

In 2003, Dillip Kumar Mallick was appointed under Central Reserve Police Force (“CRPF”) Group Centre, Bhubaneswar. A departmental investigation was opened against him on the allegations that, although he was involved in a criminal case and was indicted and that the said criminal case was pending before the competent court, but that by completing the role of verification, he would have suppressed/concealed the said fact. He was given the penalty of dismissal by the Disciplinary Authority. Later, partially granting his motion for writ, the Orissa High Court ordered the CRPF to impose “any lesser penalty deemed just and proper”.

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the question raised was whether the High Court was justified in interfering with the quantum of sentence imposed on Mallick?

The court noted that the finding of the Disciplinary Authority and Appeals Authority that he is found guilty of misconduct of suppressing/concealing material information was upheld by the High Court.

Referring to Avtar Singh v. Union of India and Others: (2016) 8 SCC 471, the bench made the following observations

Non-disclosure itself may be grounds for an employer to rescind the application or terminate services

Thus, there is no doubt that the cases of non-disclosure of material information and submission of false information have been treated of equal gravity by your Court and it is established without ambiguity that non-disclosure by itself can be grounds for an employer to rescind the application or terminate the services. Even in the summary quoted above, the Court emphasized that the information provided to the employer by a candidate as to the criminal case, including the factors of arrest or pending the case, whether before or after entry into service, must be truthful and there should be no deletion or misrepresentation of the required information.

The employer would not be obliged to ignore these faults and shortcomings

In the event of deletion, when the facts subsequently come to the knowledge of the employer, different courses of action may be adopted by the employer depending on the nature of the fault but also on the nature of the defect; and this Court has indicated that if the case is trivial in nature, such as shouting slogans at a young age, etc., the employer may ignore such suppression of facts or false information depending on the factors determining whether the information, if disclosed, would have rendered the incumbent unsuitable for the position in question. However, the above observations do not entail the corollary that in a case of the present nature where a criminal case was actually pending against the respondent and where the facts were entirely omitted from being mentioned, the employer would be obliged to ignore these faults and failings. On the contrary, as noted above, failure to disclose material information could be grounds for termination of employment or termination of service.

Taking note of the material on file, the Panel observed that he joined the CRPF in 2003 without disclosing the fact that a criminal case was pending against him, continued to remain as an accused awaiting trial without the knowledge of the ministry, until the facts are established and he is the subject of ministerial proceedings.

Welcoming the call, the panel observed:

Where the deletion of relevant information is uncontested, there can be no legal basis for the Court to interfere in the manner of ordering the employer to impose “a lesser penalty”, as the orders the Bench Division of the High Court. Findings tending to evoke sympathy and appealing for leniency cannot lead to any relief in favor of the respondent.

Case details

Union of India vs. Dillip Kumar Mallick | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 360 | CA 2754 FROM 2022 | April 5, 2022

Coram: Judges Dinesh Maheshwari and MM Sundresh

Summaries

Service law – Non-disclosure of material information in itself could be grounds for termination of employment or termination of service – the employer would not be obligated to ignore such faults and deficiencies. Where the deletion of relevant information is uncontested, there can be no legal basis for the Court to intervene – Cases of non-disclosure of material information and submission of false information have been treated as equal gravity. [Referred to Avtar Singh v. Union of India (2016) 8 SCC 471 ] (Paragraphs 13-16)

Summary – Appeal against Orissa High Court’s instruction to impose “lesser sentence” on dismissed employee for non-disclosure of criminal cases – Allowed – In a case of the present nature where a criminal case was indeed in against the respondent and the facts were completely omitted to be mentioned, the employer would be obliged to ignore these faults and failings.

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