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Politics can’t deny jobs

New Delhi, Feb. 18: Adverse police reports on political leanings — a dreaded instrument that ruined many a bright future in the 1970s and is again rearing its head — cannot be the sole basis for denying employment, the Supreme Court ruled today.

For such disqualification, there must be clear evidence of the candidate’s involvement in subversive activities, the court said.

The ruling came on a petition by a lady who cleared the written examination for junior civil judges in Andhra Pradesh but was denied the job on the ground that she and her husband were Maoist sympathisers and that her husband had appeared for the rebels in matters regarding bail.

Supreme Court Justices A.K. Patnaik and H.L. Gokhale said denying public employment just because of a police report would amount to “offending” the fundamental rights under Articles 14 (equality before law) and 16 (equal opportunities in public employment) of the Constitution.

“Unless,” the bench added, “such affinities are considered likely to affect the integrity and efficiency of the candidate, or … unless there is clear material indicating … involvement … in … subversive or violent activities of a banned organisation.”

“In the present case, there is no material on record to show that the appellant has engaged in any subversive or violent activities,” Justice Gokhale, writing the judgment, said.

The bench directed the Andhra government and the state’s high court to consider afresh the candidature of advocate K. Vijaylakshmi.

The court noted that while Vijaylakshmi had denied involvement with the CPI (Maoist) or the Chaitanya Mahila Samakhya (CMS), as alleged in the police report, a police affidavit had accepted there was no documentary proof that the CMS was a front organisation of the banned outfit.

The bench said as far as Vijaylakshmi’s connection with the CPI (Maoist) was concerned, there was “no material except” the police report, the bona fides of which “are very much disputed” by the appellant.

Vijaylakshmi had challenged Andhra High Court’s March 2009 ruling that upheld the state government’s decision not to appoint her as a civil judge in Prakasham district on the basis of intelligence reports. The reports said she and her husband had close contacts with Maoists.

The apex court agreed with her contention that her husband might have appeared for some Maoists as part of his professional duties. “…those who are participating in politics, and are opposed to those in power, have often to suffer the wrath of the rulers,” the court said.

“It may occasionally result in unjustifiable arrests or detentions. The merit of a democracy lies in recognising the right of every arrested or detained person to be defended by a legal practitioner of his choice,” the bench added.