SC clarifies when can sec 482 CrPC be invoked to compound non-compoundable offences
The State of Madhya Pradesh Vs Laxmi Narayan and others
CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.349 OF 2019
About/from the judgment:
The Supreme Court has clarified that cases involving non-compoundable offences can also be quashed on grounds of a compromise/settlement between the parties by invoking the Court’s inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), provided the case is overwhelmingly and predominantly of civil character.
In doing so, the Bench of Justices AK Sikri, S Abdul Nazeer and MR Shah also laid down guidelines to be followed in discerning cases where such power under Section 482 of CrPC can be invoked.
The ruling was passed following a reference made to a larger Bench in view of an apparent conflict between two Division Bench Supreme Court judgments on the issue, i.e. State of Rajasthan v. Shambhu Kewat and Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab. Interestingly, both Division Benches comprised of Justice Sikri, who was also part of the three-judge Bench that passed the clarificatory judgment today.
The apparent conflict
Section 320 of the CrPC provides a list of compoundable criminal offences. These are offences are considered less serious in nature, in respect of which criminal charges can be dropped if the parties arrive at a settlement or a compromise.
Section 482 confers on High Courts inherent powers to pass necessary orders to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
In the Shambu Kewat case, it was held that the Court should be guided by the statutory confines of Section 320, IPC when deciding whether a criminal case could be dropped on grounds of compromise. The Bench had held,
“In compounding of offences, power of a criminal court is circumscribed by the provisions contained in Section 320 CrPC and the Court is guided solely and squarely thereby, while, on the other hand, the formation of opinion by the High Court for quashing a criminal proceeding or criminal complaint under Section 482 CrPC is guided by the material on record as to whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power, although the ultimate consequence may be acquittal or dismissal of indictment.
However, in the Narinder Singh case, the Court indicated that while exercising inherent powers under Section 482, CrPC, the Court could also quash charges under offences that were non-compoundable in nature if there is a settlement between the parties. In that judgment, the Bench had observed,
“No doubt, under Section 482 of the Code, the High Court has inherent power to quash the criminal proceedings even in those cases which are not compoundable, where the parties have settled the matter between themselves. However, this power is to be exercised sparingly and with caution.“
In view of the two judgments, the question was whether a High Court could allow the compounding of offences that were non-compoundable as far as Section 320 of the CrPC was concerned, by invoking its inherent jurisdiction under Section 482, CrPC.
When Section 482, CrPC can be invoked to compound “non-compoundable” offences
The three-judge Bench has now clarified that both the above judgments must be read harmoniously to mean that the High Court may allow the compounding of non-compoundable offences if the offence in question is not a heinous, serious offence, but rather one that is essentially private and civil in nature.
In this regard, the Court has laid down the following guidelines
- Private, Civil Disputes can be compounded: The power under Section 482, CrPC to quash the criminal proceedings for non-compoundable offences under Section 320 can be exercised if the offences have an overwhelmingly and predominantly civil character and when the parties have resolved the entire dispute amongst themselves. These offences include those arising out of commercial transactions, matrimonial disputes, family disputes etc.;
- Serious, Heinous offences cannot be compounded: Such power is not to be exercised in those prosecutions which involve heinous and serious offences of mental depravity or offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. Such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society;
- Offences involving Special Statutes cannot be compounded: Such power is not to be exercised for offences under the special statutes like Prevention of Corruption Act. Offences committed by public servants while working in that capacity are not to be quashed merely on the basis of compromise between the victim and the offender;
- What offences are Heinous/Serious: Offences under Section 307 IPC and the Arms Act etc. would fall in the category of heinous and serious offences and therefore are to be treated as crime against the society and not against the individual alone. Therefore, the criminal proceedings for the offence under Section 307 IPC and/or the Arms Act etc. which have a serious impact on the society cannot be quashed in exercise of powers under Section 482 of the Code, on the ground that the parties have resolved their entire dispute amongst themselves.
- Consider antecedents of the accused: While exercising the power under Section 482, CrPC to quash the criminal proceedings in respect of non-compoundable offences in terms of the above guidelines, the High Court is required to consider the antecedents of the accused; the conduct of the accused, namely, whether the accused was absconding and why he was absconding, how he had managed to enter into a compromise with the complainant etc.
Applying these principles, the Supreme Court found that the appeals before it were liable to be allowed. There were two appeals before the Court, preferred by the State of Madhya Pradesh.
In one case, the Madhya Pradesh High Court had quashed a charge of attempt to murder under Section 307, IPC. The charge was quashed on the ground that the parties had settled the matter and that it would be futile to carry on the trial. In the second case, the High Court had quashed a culpable homicide attempt charge under Section 308, IPC for similar reasons.
Given that these offences were neither compoundable in terms of Section 320, CrPC, not private or civil in nature, the Supreme Court proceeded to set aside the mechanically passed High Court judgments.
Read the Judgment
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