Parties to the dispute who have arrived at a settlement can file a petition for quashing of the criminal proceedings, FIR, or complaint on the basis of such compromise in the High Court. Section 482 CrPC gives the High Court’s inherent power to pass appropriate orders to prevent abuse of the process of court or to secure the ends of justice. While exercising the power the High Court has to form an opinion on either of the two objectives, which act as the guiding factors for quashing:
(i) to secure ends of justice, or
(ii) to prevent abuse of the process of any court.
“The finest hour of justice arrives propitiously when parties, despite falling apart, bury the hatchet and weave a sense of fellowship of reunion.”
Justice Krishna Iyer
When can Court quash the criminal proceedings on the basis of compromise?
The Supreme Court has elaborated and laid down various circumstances and parameters for quashing of the FIR on the basis of compromise. Considering the law in Narinder Singh vs. State of Punjab (2014) 6 SCC 466 and Gian Singh vs. State of Punjab (2012) 10 SCC 303 the court discussed in detail when and when not to exercise such power.
The power for quashing the non-compoundable offences under Section 320 of the Code can be exercised in the following cases:
- cases having overwhelmingly and predominantly the civil character
- cases out of commercial transactions
- disputes arising out of the matrimonial relationship
- family disputes and when the parties have resolved the entire dispute amongst themselves;
When Courts cannot quash the criminal proceedings on the basis of compromise?
Such power is not to be exercised in the following circumstances:
- Prosecutions that involved heinous and serious offences of mental depravity
- offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc as such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society;
- for the offences under the special statutes like Prevention of Corruption Act or the 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;
Other Relevant Factors to be considered by the court while exercising power under Section 482 CrPC:
While exercising the power under Section 482 of the Code to quash the criminal proceedings in respect of non-compoundable offences, which are private in nature and do not have a serious impact on society, on the ground that there is a
settlement/compromise between the victim and the offender, the
High Court is required to consider:
- the antecedents of the accused;
- the conduct of the accused,
- whether the accused was absconding
- how the accused managed, with the complainant to enter into a compromise, etc.
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Can offences under section 307 IPC be quashed on the basis of compromise?
In the case of State of Madhya Pradesh Vs Laxmi Naryan and others, Criminal Appeal No.349 of 2019 decided on March 05, 2019, the Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that the criminal proceedings for offences under Section 307 IPC and/or the Arms Act, etc. that have a serious impact on society cannot be quashed in the exercise of powers under Section 482 of the Code on the ground that the parties have resolved. The High Court, however, will not base its decision solely because the FIR contains a reference to Section 307 IPC or the charge is formulated under this section. The High Court will have to decide if the incorporation of Section 307 IPC is justified or whether the prosecution has gathered sufficient evidence that, if proven, would lead to the charge under Section 307 IPC. For this purpose, the High Court may consider the nature of the injury sustained, whether the injury was inflicted on vital/delegated body parts, and the nature of the weapons employed. However, the High Court may exercise this power only once the evidence is gathered during the investigation and the charge sheet is filed/charge is framed, and/or during the trial. This exercise cannot be done by the High Court while the matter is still under investigation.
The position that emerges from the above discussion can be summarised thus:
The High Court’s inherent power to quash a criminal proceeding, FIR, or complaint is distinct and distinct from the power granted to a criminal court to compound offences under Section 320 of the Code. While inherent power has no statutory limitations, it must be exercised in accordance with the guidelines engrafted in it, namely to secure the ends of justice or to avoid abuse of any court’s procedure. Where the accused and the victim have resolved their dispute, the power to quash the criminal proceeding, complaint, or FIR may be exercised depending on the facts and circumstances of each case.
However, before exercising this authority, the High Court must consider the nature and gravity of the offence. Even if the victim or victim’s family has resolved the matter with the offender, heinous and grave offences of mental depravity, such as murder, rape, or dacoity, cannot be lawfully quashed. These are not private offences and have a significant influence on society.
Similarly, any agreement reached between the victim and the offender regarding offences punishable under special statutes such as the Prevention of Corruption Act or offences committed by public servants while performing their official duties, etc., cannot serve as a basis for the dismissal of criminal proceedings involving such offences. However, criminal cases with an overwhelmingly and predominatingly civil naure stand on a different footing for the purposes of quashing, particularly those arising out of commercial, financial, mercantile, civil, partnership, or similar transactions, or those arising out of matrimonial disputes involving dowry, etc., or family disputes in which the wrong is essentially private or personal in nature and the parties have resolved their entire dispute. The High Court may quash criminal proceedings in this category if, in its opinion, the possibility of conviction is remote and bleak as a result of the offender’s compromise with the victim, and the continuation of the criminal case would subject the accused to severe oppression and prejudice, as well as extreme injustice, by not quashing the criminal case despite full and complete settlement and compromise with the victim.
In other words, the High Court must consider whether continuing the criminal proceeding would be unjust or contrary to the interests of justice, whether continuing the criminal proceeding would constitute an abuse of process of law despite settlement and compromise between the victim and the wrongdoer, and whether, to secure the ends of justice, it is appropriate to end the criminal case.