Service matter = whether an offence involving bodily injury can be categorized as a crime involving moral turpitude. In this case, we are concerned with an assault. It is very difficult to state that every assault is not an offence involving moral turpitude. A simple assault is different from an aggravated assault. All cases of assault or simple hurt cannot be categorized as crimes involving moral turpitude. On the other hand, the use of a dangerous weapon which can cause the death of the victim may may result in an offence involving moral turpitude. In the instant case, there was no motive for the Respondent to cause the death of the victims. The criminal courts below found that the injuries caused to the victims were simple in nature. On an overall consideration of the facts of this case, we are of the opinion that the crime committed by the Respondent does not involve moral turpitude. As the Respondent is not guilty of an offence involving moral turpitude, he is not liable to be discharged from service. we affirm the judgment of the High Court.


Hon’ble Mr. Justice L. Nageswara Rao

Reportable
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL No . 7011 of2009
The State Bank of India & Others. …. Appellants

Versus
P. Soupramaniane …. Respondent
J U D G M E N T
L. NAGESWARA RAO, J.

  1. The Respondent who was working as a Messenger in
    the State Bank of India at Puducherry was discharged from
    service by an order dated 15.05.1986. The appeal filed by
    the Respondent against the order of discharge was
    dismissed on 03.07.1986. Later, the Staff Union took up
    the cause of the Respondent and made a representation
    on his behalf which was also rejected on 04.05.1992.
    Challenging the aforementioned orders, the Respondent
    filed a Writ Petition in the High Court of Judicature at
    Madras which was dismissed by a learned Single Judge on
    07.06.2000. Aggrieved thereby, the Respondent filed
    a Writ Appeal which was allowed by the Division Bench of
    the Madras High Court. The order of discharge of the
    Respondent from service was set aside and the Appellants
    were directed to reinstate the Respondent. The Appellants
    were directed to pay 1/4th of the salary from the date of
    discharge till the date of reinstatement as back wages.
    Notice was issued by this Court in Special Leave Petition
    filed by the Appellants on 01.09.2009 and the judgment of
    the High Court was stayed. Thereafter, leave was granted
    on 19.10.2009 and the interim order was made absolute.
    We are informed that the Respondent has attained the age
    of superannuation on 31.12.2012.
  2. Since the discharge of the Respondent from service is
    on the basis of conviction for an offence involving moral
    turpitude, it is necessary to refer to the facts of the
    criminal case. A report was submitted by the Station
    House Officer (SHO), Grand Bazaar Police Station,
    Puducherry that on 17.06.1983 at 9.00 hours the
    Respondent voluntarily stabbed Karthiban s/o
    Dharamssivam and Sivagurunathan s/o Brame Dhanabal
    with a broken soda bottle. On completion of investigation,
    charge sheet was filed against the Respondent.
    Thereafter, charge was framed under Section 307 IPC.
    After appreciation of the evidence on-record, the trial
    court found that the Respondent had no intention to cause
    murder of the victims who were examined as PWs-1 and 2.
    The injuries were certified as simple by PW-5. The trial
    court was of the opinion that there was no material to
    convict the Respondent under Section 307 IPC. However,
    the trial court convicted the Respondent under Section 324
    IPC and sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for three
    months. The motive for the crime was an earlier dispute
    between two groups belonging to different political parties.
    The conviction was affirmed by the Appellate Court. The
    Appellate Court released the Respondent on probation as it
    was of the opinion that the Respondent was a fit person to
    be dealt with under Section 360 CrPC. One of the reasons
    given by the Appellate Court to release the Respondent on
    probation was that the Respondent was employed as a
    Messenger in a Bank and any sentence of imprisonment
    would affect his career.
  3. As stated earlier, discharge of the Respondent from
    service was on the ground of his conviction by a criminal
    court for an offence involving moral turpitude.
  4. Section 10(1)(b)(i) of the Banking Regulation Act,
    1949 provides that conviction by a criminal court of an
    offence involving moral turpitude shall disentitle a person
    from continuing in employment of a banking company.
    The Writ Appeal filed by the Respondent was allowed by a
    Division Bench of the High Court on the ground that the
    criminal court released the Respondent under probation in
    exercise of its power under Section 360 CrPC to enable the
    Respondent to continue in service. The High Court was of
    the opinion that the purpose of the order of the criminal
    court would be defeated if the Respondent is discharged
    from service. Another reason given by the High Court is
    that the provision of law under which the bank discharged
    the Respondent from service was not mentioned and no
    reasons were assigned by the bank in the order of
    discharge.
  5. We do not agree with the reasons given by the High
    Court for setting aside the order of discharge and directing
    the reinstatement of the Respondent in service. A showcause notice was issued to the Respondent in which it was
    categorically mentioned that the Respondent cannot
    continue in service after his conviction in a criminal case
    involving moral turpitude in view of Section 10(1)(b)(i) of
    the Banking Regulation Act, 1949. After considering the
    explanation of the Respondent, an order of discharge was
    passed. The High Court is not right in holding that no
    reasons had been given by the bank for discontinuing the
    Respondent from service. The High Court committed an
    error in holding that the order of discharge should be set
    aside on the ground that the provision of law under which
    the Respondent was discharged was not mentioned in the
    order. Yet another reason given by the High Court for
    interference with the order of discharge is that the criminal
    court released the Respondent on probation only to permit
    him to continue in service. The release under probation
    does not entitle an employee to claim a right to continue in
    service. In fact the employer is under an obligation to
    discontinue the services of an employee convicted of an
    offence involving moral turpitude.1
    The observations made
    by a criminal court are not binding2
    on the employer who
    has the liberty of dealing with his employees suitably.
  6. Though we do not agree with the reasons given by
    the High Court for setting aside the order of discharge of
    the Respondent from service, it is necessary to examine
    whether Section 10 (1)(b)(i) of Banking Regulation Act is
    applicable to the facts of the case. Conviction for an
    offence involving moral turpitude disqualifies a person
    from continuing in service in a bank. The conundrum that
    arises in this case is whether the conviction of the
    Respondent under Section 324 IPC can be said to be for an
    offence involving moral turpitude.
  7. Moral Turpitude’ as defined in the Black’s Law
    Dictionary (6
    th
    ed.) is as follows:
    “The Act of baseness, vileness, or the depravity in
    the private and social duties which man owes to
    1 Sushil Kumar Singhal v. Punjab National Bank, (2010) 8 SCC 573
    2 This Court has observed on multiple occasions that in criminal jurisdiction,
    Courts do not have the power to pass a direction that the said conviction will not
    have any impact on the convict’s services. See: Girraj Prasad Meena v. State of
    Rajasthan (2014) 13 SCC 674
    his follow man, or to society in general, contrary
    to accepted and customary rule of right and duty
    between man and man.”
    3
    “implies something immoral in itself regardless of
    it being punishable by law”; “restricted to the
    gravest offences, consisting of felonies, infamous
    crimes, and those that are malum in se and
    disclose a depraved mind.”
    4
    According to Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, ‘Moral
    Turpitude’ is :
    “An act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the
    private and social duties which a man owes to his
    fellow men or to society in general, contrary to the
    accepted and customary rule of right and duty
    between man and man.”
    Burton Legal Thesaurus defines ‘Moral Turpitude’
    as :
    “Bad faith, bad repute, corruption, defilement,
    delinquency, discredit, dishonor, shame, guilt,
    knavery, misdoing, perversion, shame, ice,
    wrong.”
    3 p. 1008
    4 p. 1517
  8. There is no doubt that there is an obligation on the
    Management of the Bank to discontinue the services of an
    employee who has been convicted by a criminal court for
    an offence involving moral turpitude.5
    Though every
    offence is a crime against the society, discontinuance from
    service according to the Banking Regulation Act can be
    only for committing an offence involving moral turpitude.
    Acts which disclose depravity and wickedness of character
    can be categorized as offences involving moral turpitude.
    Whether an offence involves moral turpitude or not
    depends upon the facts6
    and the circumstances7
    of the
    case. Ordinarily, the tests that can be applied for judging
    an offence involving moral turpitude are:
    a) Whether the act leading to a conviction was
    such as could shock the moral conscience or
    society in general;
    b) Whether the motive which led to the act was a
    base one, and
    c) Whether on account of the act having been
    committed the perpetrators could be considered
    5 Sushil Kumar Singhal (supra)
    6 Allahabad Bank v. Deepak Kumar Bhola
    7 Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana, (1996) 4 SCC 17 ¶12
    to be of a depraved character or a person who
    was to be looked down upon by the society.
    8

The other important factors that are to be kept in
mind to conclude that an offence involves moral turpitude
are :– the person who commits the offence; the person
against whom it is committed; the manner and
circumstances in which it is alleged to have been
committed; and the values of the society.9
According to
the National Incident – Based Reporting System (NIBRS), a
crime data collection system used in the United States of
America, each offence belongs to one of the three
categories which are: crimes against persons, crimes
against property, and crimes against society. Crimes
against persons include murder, rape, and assault where
the victims are always individuals. The object of
crimes against property, for example, robbery and burglary
is to obtain money, property, or some other benefits.
Crimes against society for example gambling, prostitution,
and drug violations, represent society’s prohibition against
engaging in certain types of activities. Conviction of any
8 Mangali v. Chakki Lal, AIR 1963 ALL 527
9 Jorabhai Hirabhai Rabari v. District Development Officer, Mehsana, AIR 1996 Guj
3.
alien of a crime involving moral turpitude is a ground for
deportation under the Immigration Law in the United
States of America. To qualify as a crime involving moral
turpitude for such purpose, it requires both reprehensible
conduct and scienter, whether with specific intent,
deliberateness, willfulness or recklessness.10

  1. There can be no manner of doubt about certain
    offences which can straightaway be termed as involving
    moral turpitude e.g. offences under the Prevention of
    Corruption of Act, NDPS Act, etc. The question that arises
    for our consideration in this case is whether an offence
    involving bodily injury can be categorized as a crime
    involving moral turpitude. In this case, we are concerned
    with an assault. It is very difficult to state that every
    assault is not an offence involving moral turpitude.
    A simple assault is different from an aggravated assault. All
    cases of assault or simple hurt cannot be categorized as crimes
    involving moral turpitude. On the other hand, the use of a
    dangerous weapon which can cause the death of the victim
    may may result in an offence involving moral turpitude. In the
    instant case, there was no motive for the Respondent to cause
    10 Cristoval Silva – Trevina 241 & N Dec 687 (AG 2008)
    the death of the victims. The criminal courts below found that
    the injuries caused to the victims were simple in nature. On an
    overall consideration of the facts of this case, we are of the
    opinion that the crime committed by the Respondent does not
    involve moral turpitude. As the Respondent is not guilty of an
    offence involving moral turpitude, he is not liable to be
    discharged from service.
  2. For the aforementioned reasons, we affirm the judgment
    of the High Court. The Appeal is dismissed accordingly. ……………………………J.
    [L. NAGESWARA RAO]
    …………………………….J.
    [M.R.SHAH]
    New Delhi,
    April 26, 2019.