The Three Judge Bench comprising of Justice AK Sikri, Justice Abdul Nazeer and Justice MR Shah stated that inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC can be invoked by the High Court in compounding of non-compoundable cases provided that such cases are overwhelming and predominantly of civil character. The Bench was hearing the reference made by a Two Judge Bench vide its order dated 08.09.2017 wherein there were apparent conflicting views on the scope and interpretation of the judgments in Narinder Singh vs. State of Punjab (2014) 6 SCC 466 and State of Rajasthan vs. Shambhu Kewat (2014) 4 SCC 149.

In the case of Narinder Singh, it was held that under inherent powers as stipulated in Section 482 CrPC, the High Court could quash offences that were non-compoundable if there is a settlement that is arrived at between the parties with the exception that such powers for quashing are to be exercised sparingly and with caution. In the case of Shambu Kewat, the powers of the Courts to set aside proceedings on the grounds of compromise were described as:

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.

Thus, the Bench clarified that the referred judgments are to be read harmoniously to state that the exercise of the powers under Section 482 CrPC are to be implemented in cases where the offence is not heinous or serious in nature but is rather that is one of a private offence and being civil in nature. The Bench set aside the judgments of the High Court under challenge and laid down certain guidelines to be implemented by the High Court while determining and exercising its powers under Section 482 CrPC as follows:

i. that the power conferred under Section 482 of the Code to quash the criminal proceedings for the non-compoundable offences under Section 320 of the Code can be exercised having overwhelmingly and predominantly the civil character, particularly those arising out of commercial transactions or arising out of matrimonial relationship or family disputes and when the parties have resolved the entire dispute amongst themselves;

ii. such power is not to be exercised in those prosecutions which involved 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;

iii. similarly, such power is not to be exercised for the offences under the special statutes like Prevention of Corruption Act or the offences committed by public servants while working in that 24 capacity are not to be quashed merely on the basis of compromise between the victim and the offender;

iv. 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, and 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. However, the High Court would not rest its decision merely because there is a mention of Section 307 IPC in the FIR or the charge is framed under this provision. It would be open to the High Court to examine as to whether incorporation of Section 307 IPC is there for the sake of it or the prosecution has collected sufficient evidence, which if proved, would lead to framing the charge under Section 307 IPC. For this purpose, it would be open to the High Court to go by the nature of injury sustained, whether such injury is inflicted on the vital/delegate parts of the body, nature of weapons used etc. However, such an exercise by the High Court would be permissible only after the evidence is collected after investigation and the charge sheet is 25 filed/charge is framed and/or during the trial. Such exercise is not permissible when the matter is still under investigation. Therefore, the ultimate conclusion in paragraphs 29.6 and 29.7 of the decision of this Court in the case of Narinder Singh (supra) should be read harmoniously and to be read as a whole and in the circumstances stated hereinabove;

v. 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 impart 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, namely, whether the accused was absconding and why he was absconding, how he had managed with the complainant to enter into a compromise etc.


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