Criminal Antecedents: Law, Cases and Evidentiary Value


April 15, 2018

In common language ‘criminal antecedents” refers to the life history and previous convictions of the accused in a particular case.

The evidentiary value of criminal antecedents has been explained by Judiciary in several cases and the judicial dicta indicate that the substantial value of criminal antecedents while determining the guilt of an accused in a case.

Some remarkable recent cases on criminal antecedents in India are enumerated below:

SC: Criminal Antecedents/History of Accused not to be ignored when granting bail

Case name: Neeru Yadav State of U.P. (Supreme Court, 2015)

In the case, the Appellant challenged High Court’s order whereby the High Court had granted bail to respondent no. 2 solely on the basis of parity. Admitted facts of the case were that the accused in the case was a history sheeter and was involved in heinous crimes earlier. It was alleged that High Court while grating bail had ignored the accused’s criminal history.

The Supreme Court in appeal made a scathing attack on the High Court’s ignorance of noticing the criminal history of accused and noted that the High Court ignored many relevant factors which includes the criminal antecedents of the accused and that makes the order a deviant one. Therefore, the inevitable result is the lancination of the impugned order.

The case can be accessed here.

SC: Candidates with Criminal Antecedents not fit for Police Force

Case name: Union Territory, Chandigarh Administration and Others v. Pradeep Kumar and Anr. (Supreme Court, 2018)

In this recent case taken up by the Supreme Court a batch of petitions were taken together to decide the common issue:

Whether the candidature of the respondents who had disclosed their involvement in the criminal cases and also their acquittal could be cancelled by the Screening Committee on the ground that they are not suitable for the post of constable in Chandigarh Police?

The Court in the case inferred that candidates with criminal antecedents even after acquittal are not fit to join the Police Force.

Police Aspirants to be of Good Character and Clean Antecedents- the Supreme Court opined that entering into the police service required a candidate to be of good character, integrity and clean antecedents[1].

Read more here.

The entire case can be accessed here.

SC: Candidates Contesting Bar Elections shall Disclose Criminal Antecedents

Case name: K. Chandramohan v. Bar Council of India & Ors. (Supreme Court, 2018)

In a very recent case taken up by the Supreme Court in February, 2018, the Court categorically remarked that any candidate who is contesting, shall disclose the criminal antecedents in the form that is going to be filled up.

In the case, the Tamil Nadu High Court’s order was challenged wherein the High Court had directed that The Bar Council of India, the Police and Income Tax Department to ensure that advocates enrolled on the basis of fake law degrees or those involved in corruption shall not be allowed to contest Bar Council elections.

Though the Supreme Court while remarking the High Court’s order as a moralistic one stayed the operation of aforesaid direction, it remarked that candidates shall disclose criminal antecedents while contesting elections.

SC: Declaration of Criminal Antecedents by Candidates is a Categorical Imperative

Case name: Krishnamoorthy v. Sivakumar & Ors. (Supreme Court, 2015)

In this case, the Apex Court rendered an in-depth analysis of the issue pertaining to non-disclosure of full particulars of criminal cases pending against a candidate, at the time of filing of nomination and its eventual impact when the election is challenged before the election tribunal. In the case, the Appellant was elected as the President of Thekampatti Panchayat, in the State of Tamil Nadu and subsequently the validity of the election was called in question on the sole ground that he had filed a false declaration suppressing the details of criminal cases pending trial against him and, therefore, his nomination deserved to be rejected.

Hence, the intriguing issue taken up by the Court was whether non-disclosure of criminal antecedents would tantamount to undue influence, which is a facet of corrupt practice as per Section 123(2) of the Representation of People Act, 1951. The Supreme Court made the following categorical observation in the case:

Disclosure of criminal antecedents of a candidate, especially, pertaining to heinous or serious offence or offences relating to corruption or moral turpitude at the time of filing of nomination paper as mandated by law is a categorical imperative.

When there is non-disclosure of the offences pertaining to the areas mentioned in the preceding clause, it creates an impediment in the free exercise of electoral right. Concealment or suppression of this nature deprives the voters to make an informed and advised choice as a consequence of which it would come within the compartment of direct or indirect interference or attempt to interfere with the free exercise of the right to vote by the electorate, on the part of the candidate.

As the candidate has the special knowledge of the pending cases where cognizance has been taken or charges have been framed and there is a non-disclosure on his part, it would amount to undue influence and, therefore, the election is to be declared null and void by the Election Tribunal under Section 100(1)(b) of the 1951 Act.

The entire case can be accessed here.

Supreme Court’s Guidelines for Employer in case of Suppression of Criminal History by Employee

Case name: Avtar Singh v. Union of India

In this case the Court considered the cleavage of opinion in various decisions on the question of suppression of information or submitting false information in the verification form as to the question of having been criminally prosecuted, arrested or as to pendency of a criminal case.

The Apex Court in the case laid down the following guidelines for the employer and stated that any of the following recourse appropriate to the case may be adopted: –

  • In a case trivial in nature in which conviction had been recorded, such as shouting slogans at young age or for a petty offence which if disclosed would not have rendered an incumbent unfit for post in question, the employer may, in its discretion, ignore such suppression of fact or false information by condoning the lapse.
  • Where conviction has been recorded in case which is not trivial in nature, employer may cancel candidature or terminate services of the employee.
  • If acquittal had already been recorded in a case involving moral turpitude or offence of heinous/serious nature, on technical ground and it is not a case of clean acquittal, or benefit of reasonable doubt has been given, the employer may consider all relevant facts available as to antecedents, and may take appropriate decision as to the continuance of the employee.
  • In a case where the employee has made declaration truthfully of a concluded criminal case, the employer still has the right to consider antecedents, and cannot be compelled to appoint the candidate.
  • In case when fact has been truthfully declared in character verification form regarding pendency of a criminal case of trivial nature, employer, in facts and circumstances of the case, in its discretion may appoint the candidate subject to decision of such case.
  • In a case of deliberate suppression of fact with respect to multiple pending cases such false information by itself will assume significance and an employer may pass appropriate order cancelling candidature or terminating services as appointment of a person against whom multiple criminal cases were pending may not be proper.
  • If criminal case was pending but not known to the candidate at the time of filling the form, still it may have adverse impact and the appointing authority would take decision after considering the seriousness of the crime.
  • In case the employee is confirmed in service, holding Departmental enquiry would be necessary before passing order of termination/removal or dismissal on the ground of suppression or submitting false information in verification form.
  • For determining suppression or false information attestation/verification form has to be specific, not vague. Only such information which was required to be specifically mentioned has to be disclosed. If information not asked for but is relevant comes to knowledge of the employer the same can be considered in an objective manner while addressing the question of fitness. However, in such cases action cannot be taken on basis of suppression or submitting false information as to a fact which was not even asked for.
  • Before a person is held guilty of suppressio veri or suggestio falsi, knowledge of the fact must be attributable to him.

Read more here.

Also read 10 Important Judgments on Service Law in India

The entire case can be accessed here.

[1] Commissioner of Police, New Delhi and Another v. Mehar Singh, (2013) 7 SCC 685