What is meant by moral turpitude?

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  • #1364

    Anonymous
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    In many Acts and rules, the expression “moral turpitude” is used. For example, in the Advocates Act, it has been provided that No person shall be admitted as an advocate on a State roll if he is convicted of an offence involving moral turpitude, or, if he is dismissed or removed from employment or office under the State on any charge involving moral turpitude. Similarly, the Government of India guidelines say that Suspension may be desirable in the circumstances of any offence or conduct involving moral turpitude.

    What exactly is the definition of “moral turpitude”?

  • #1557

    The expression “moral turpitude” is not defined in statutes. However, in some Government orders and court judgments, some indications / illustrations of its meaning are given.

    In the case of Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana, (1996) 4 SCC 17 : AIR 1996 SC 3300, the Supreme Court held that:

    “Moral turpitude” is an expression which is used in legal as also societal parlance to describe conduct which is inherently base, vile, depraved or having any connection showing depravity.

    In the case of Sushil Kumar Singhal v. Punjab National Bank, (2010) 8 SCC 573, the Supreme Court held that:

    “…it is evident that moral turpitude means anything contrary to honesty, modesty or good morals. It means vileness and depravity. In fact, the conviction of a person in a crime involving moral turpitude impeaches his credibility as he has been found to have indulged in shameful, wicked and base activities.”

    In the case of Baleshwar Singh v. District Magistrate and Collector, AIR 1959 All 71, the Allahabad High Court held that:

    “The expression ‘moral turpitude’ is not defined anywhere. But it means anything done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals. It implies deprivity and wickedness of character or disposition of the person charged with the particular conduct. Every false statement made by a person may not be moral turpitude, but it would be so if it discloses vileness or deprivity in the doing of any private and social duty which a person owes to his fellowmen or to the society in general. If therefore the individual charged with a certain conduct owes a duty, either to another individual or to the society in general, to act in a specific manner or not to so act and he still acts contrary to it and does so knowingly, his conduct must be held to be due to vileness and deprivity. It will be contrary to accepted customary rule and duty between man and man.”

    In the above case of Pawan Kumar v. State of Haryana, (1996) 4 SCC 17 : AIR 1996 SC 3300, the Supreme Court has reproduced the following extract from the Haryana Government circular:

    “… The following terms should ordinarily be applied in judging whether a certain offence involves moral turpitude or not:

    (1) whether the act leading to a conviction was such as could shock the moral conscience of society in general.

    (2) whether the motive which led to the act was a base one.

    (3) whether on account of the act having been committed the perpetrator could be considered to be of a depraved character or a person who was to be looked down upon by the society.

    Decision in each case will, however, depend on the circumstances of the case and the competent authority has to exercise its discretion while taking a decision in accordance with the above-mentioned principles. A list of offences which involve moral turpitude is enclosed for your information and guidance. This list, however, cannot be said to be exhaustive and there might be offences which are not included in it but which in certain situations and circumstances may involve moral turpitude.”

     

         


    Dr. Ashok Dhamija is a New Delhi based Supreme Court Advocate and author of law books. Read more about him by clicking here. List of his Forum Replies. List of his other articles. List of his Quora Answers. List of his YouTube Videos.

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