The quashing of FIR is a statutory power to end all the criminal proceedings arising out of FIR, it is given to the constitutional courts to avoid harassment of innocent people. FIR entails an investigation & criminal trial, but quashing of FIR culminates all the processes of the criminal justice system. In some of the cases where principles of State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal, (1992) Supp (1) SCC 335 can be applied, it is the most effective remedy as it saves time and undue harassment of the innocent people. If we compare other remedies like discharge or acquittal with the quashing of FIR, the discharge or acquittal takes a longer time duration to conclude and the harassment to the accused is enormous.
It has been observed in the practical experience that the people use FIR as a tool/weapon of revenge by filing false & frivolous complaints to harass innocent individuals, and this tendency is, unfortunately, increasing among notorious people who may be politically motivated at times. False FIRs or complaints entail making false claims with an aim of punishing the innocent individual by filing FIRs/ complaints based on misrepresenting the facts or manipulating the circumstances. Frivolous FIRs/complaints unnecessarily burden the police officials and choking courts thereby, the entire criminal justice system. The time and resources of the State are unnecessarily wasted on false, frivolous & malicious prosecutions.
There are individuals in the society who are in a position to abuse the process of law and the law attempts to remove inequality between those who dominate and others who are being dominated. The purpose of the law is the general welfare of the people by safeguarding their rights thereby, ensuring peace and tranquillity. As a result, the legislation had been enacted the provisions of quashing a long back with a set of rights to safeguard innocent citizens from being exploited by such abuse of process of laws.
Where can FIR be Quashed?
The quashing of FIR is usually initiated at the level of the High Court u/s 482, CrPC in the State where FIR is registered and trial is being proceeded. The Supreme Court in supervisory jurisdiction can also quash FIRs in Special Leave Petitions under 136, Constitution of India or under Article 142, the Constitution of India.
When can FIR be Quashed?
Whenever the High Court finds that the FIR/criminal proceedings are abuse of any Court’s process, it can quash such proceedings. It can also quash FIR/criminal proceedings to achieve the ends of justice. The governing principles are that of judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal, (1992) Supp (1) SCC 335
Who can Quash the FIR?
Powers of the High Court:
The petition of quashing the FIR and all connected proceedings against the accused is filed in the Hon’ble High Court under Section 482, CrPC. If the High Court finds that the accused has been wrongfully accused and that the FIR is false, malicious, or wholly unnecessary, the FIR can be quashed under 482, CrPC. The High Court uses these inherent powers to prevent abuse of any Court’s process, or to otherwise achieve the ends of justice.
Powers of the Supreme Court:
The Hon’ble Supreme Court can exercise a supervisory or, more precisely, revisionary jurisdiction over power of the High Court (section 482, CrPC) under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution, which empowers the Supreme Court to grant special leave to appeal against any judgement, order, or decree of any court in India in order to resolve a substantial question of law or to correct a grave injustice. Under this Article of the Constitution, the Supreme Court can overturn any order and judgment of the High Court and quash criminal proceeding apply correct statement of Law.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court can also exercise its inherent powers in extremely circumspect manner under Article 142, the Constitution of India for quashing of FIR in post convictions matter.
Why & How FIR can be Quashed:
The High Court uses its inherent powers to prevent abuse of any Court’s process, or to otherwise achieve the ends of justice. These statutory provisions are guided by the principles laid down by the Hon’ble Apex Court in State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal, (1992) Supp (1) SCC 335 laid down broader parameters for quashing of FIR/complaint. These principles have been explained below in a simple language:
- Where the allegations contained in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if taken at face value and accepted in their whole, do not constitute an offence or establish a case against the accused prima facie;
- Where the allegations contained in the First Information Report and any other materials, if any, accompanying the F.I.R. do not disclose a cognizable offence justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code, except pursuant to a Magistrate’s order under Section 155(2) of the Code;
- Where the undisputed allegations contained in the F.I.R. or complaint, as well as the evidence gathered in support of the same, do not disclose the commission of any offence and do not establish a case against the accused;
- Where the allegations in the F.I.R. do not constitute a cognizable offence but rather a non-cognizable offence, no investigation by a police officer is permitted without a Magistrate’s order pursuant to Section 155(2) of the Code;
- Where the allegations included in the F.I.R. or complaint are so ridiculous and implausible that no competent person could ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused;
- Where any provision of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) contains an express legal bar to the institution and continuation of the proceedings, and/or where the Code or the concerned Act contains a specific provision providing effective redress for the aggrieved party’s grievance;
- Where a criminal prosecution is plainly malafide and/or where the proceeding is intentionally instituted with the intent of exacting vengeance on the accused and to spite him as a result of a private and personal grudge.
Meaning of dismissed as withdrawn and dismissed on merits in Quashing Petition:
The procedure for withdrawal and dismissal is applicable on the proceeding before the High Court and the Supreme Court alike.
Dismissed as withdrawn: The accused usually approach the High Court for the relief of Quashing of FIR and the petition can be withdrawn at any stage before concluding the final arguments. If the quashing petition is withdrawn, it can be refiled before the same court after explaining the change of circumstances, and that application can be argued on merits. But, if the petition is withdrawn, it cannot be filed before the appellate forum.
Dismissed on merits: If the petition is dismissed on merits, it can only be filed before the appellate forum.
Different Scenarios in Quashing of FIR
Interim orders in quashing petitions:
A three-member bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M/s Neeharika Infrastructure Pvt. Ltd. vs. State of Maharashtra, 2021 SCC online SC 315 held that prior to passing an interim order restraining further investigation pending the outcome of a quashing petition, the High Court must apply the same criteria it would use to quash the proceedings in its inherent jurisdiction and justify the interim orders.
Quashing of FIR immediately after registration of FIR:
The quashing of FIR can be filed at any stage and it can be proceeded immediately after filing of the complaint or after registration of FIR. At initial stages, the chances of quashing are minimal unless it are strong merits in a particular case.
Quashing of FIR before or after filing of Charge Sheet:
Section 173, CrPC lays down the manner in which a police report/charge sheet is filed before JMIC or Sessions Court. Before filing of the charge sheet, the High Court can quash the FIR by applying the established principles for quashing of FIR. After the completion of the investigation, the accused can inform the Court that there is no proof or evidence against him. Based on the evidence gathered against the accused in the charge sheet, the accused can also take a plea of inherent improbability of conviction before the High Court and the FIR can be quashed on the merits.
Quashing of FIR after conviction:
A legitimate right of the accused after conviction is filing an appeal against the judgment of conviction. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has held that compromise quashing of FIR is permissible even after conviction of the accused for the crimes which are not heinous in nature.
Quashing of FIR on the basis of Compromise or Merits:
The FIR is quashed by the High Court on merits by applying the broader principles evolved by the Hon’ble Supreme Court for quashing of FIR on merits.
The FIR can also be quashed by the High Court on the basis of a compromise in the cases that are not heinous in nature. Whenever there is a compromise between the complainant and the accused, a compromise deed is submitted before in the court, alongwith the joint petition filed by the parties. The Court examines the facts, circumstances, and grounds of the quashing and send the parties before trial court for recording of the statement to the effect that the compromise is out of free will and without force or coercion. Thereafter, the High Court can quash FIR as per facts and circumstances of the Court.
If the High Court is not convinced with facts and circumstances of the compromise, the High Court may refuse to quash the FIR on the basis of compromise. If the sections of the criminal code like IPC are compoundable in nature, the High Court can ask parties to move trial court for compounding of offences.
Quashing of FIR in Matrimonial Cases:
There are a few matrimonial FIRs where the complaints in spur of a moment have been registered out of vendetta or malafide especially, Sections 498 A and 406, the Indian Penal Code. However, the parties to the matrimonial dispute eventually settle the matter amicably and it is usually reduced to writing defining terms and conditions of the settlement. On the basis of the Compromise, the High Court accepts it frequently and quash the FIR and its resulting proceedings.
Quashing of FIR in Financial Disputes:
When the FIR arising out of a financial dispute can be resolved after the parties reaching to a compromise, the quashing of FIR becomes a preferred remedy if serious economic offences having wider ramification are not involved.
Within the broader legal parameters, the constitutional courts frequently quash FIR on merits or on the compromise of the parties. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has held in catena of judgments that the nature and gravity of the offence must be considered by the High Court especially, in the compromise quashing of FIR as it has been recognised that horrific and serious crimes involving mental depravity, such as murder or rape, alongwith criminal conspiracy, cannot be quashed even if the victim or the victim’s family has reached an agreement with the accused. It has been held that such offences are not really private in nature, but they have a significant social consequence on the society.