Gian Singh v. State of Punjab

CourtSupreme Court of India
Decided on24th September 2012
Citations10 SCC 303
Case No.SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CRL.) NO. 8989 OF 2010
BenchR.M. Lodha, Anil R. Dave, Sudhansu Jyoti Mukhopadhaya
AppellantGian Singh
RespondentsState of Punjab & Another.
ReferenceSection 420 and Section 120B, Indian Penal code,1860. Section 320 and Section 482 Cr.P.C., 1973

Abstract

This paper will deal with compoundable and non-compoundable offences, and when the high court can quash any criminal proceedings. In what situations can the High court quash any proceeding is discussed. Since this case involves the petitioner being accused of a compoundable offence and a non-compoundable offence, it is interesting to see the take of the Supreme court on this matter, because it can be logically deduced that non-compoundable offences cannot be made compoundable if the offence is serious involving harm to society and the act itself is heinous as such, but if the offence is more personal and can be resolved by the parties then the court can turn non-compoundable offences into a compoundable one.

Introduction

To compound means “to settle a matter by a money payment, instead of other liability.” In criminal law, the power to compound the offence is at the discretion of the victim. Legal provisions regarding compounding of offences are mentioned under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The object of Section 320 of the Code is to promote friendliness between the parties so that peace between them is restored.

Compounding of Offences means to establish a compromise between two parties, where the complainant agrees to have the charges dropped against the accused. On this basis, offenses are divided into 2 categories:

  • Compoundable Offences
  • Non-Compoundable Offences

Compoundable offences are those that can be compromised, i.e. the complainant can agree to take back the charges levied against the accused, whereas, non – compoundable offences are the more serious offences in which the parties cannot compromise.

Background

The petitioner has been convicted under Section 420 and Section 120B, of the Indian Penal Code by the learned Magistrate. He filed an appeal challenging his conviction before the Sessions Judge. While his appeal was pending, he applied to the learned Sessions Judge for compounding the offense, which, according to the learned counsel, was directed to be taken up along with the main appeal. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a petition under Section 482, Cr.P.C. for quashing of the FIR on the ground of compounding the offense. That petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C. has been dismissed by the High Court by its impugned order. Hence, this petition has been filed in this Court.

Facts

The petitioner is has been accused of :

  • Section 420, Indian Penal Code

Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property —Whoever cheats and thereby dishonestly induces the person de­ceived to deliver any property to any person, or to make, alter or destroy the whole or any part of valuable security, or anything which is signed or sealed, and which is capable of being converted into a valuable security, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.

Section 120B in The Indian Penal Code

120B. Punishment of criminal conspiracy. —

(1) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy to commit an offense punishable with death, [imprisonment for life] or rigorous imprisonment for a term of two years or upwards, shall, where no express provision is made in this Code for the punishment of such a conspiracy, be punished in the same manner as if he had abetted such offense.

(2) Whoever is a party to a criminal conspiracy other than a criminal conspiracy to commit an offense punishable as aforesaid shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term not exceeding six months, or with fine or with both.]

It should be noted here that Section 320, Cr.P.C. mentions certain offenses as compoundable, certain other offenses as compoundable with the permission of the Court, and the other offenses as non- compoundable.

Section 420, IPC, is a compoundable offense with permission of the Court given Section 320, Cr.P.C. but Section 120B IPC, the other hand on which the petitioner has been convicted, is a non-compoundable offense.

Issue

According to the learned judges of this case, they believe that non-compoundable offenses cannot be permitted to be compounded by the Court, whether directly or indirectly.

In the following cases B.S. Joshi v. the State of Haryana[1]Nikhil Merchant v. Central Bureau of Investigation and Another [2]; and Manoj Sharma v. State and Others[3], the Court has indirectly permitted compounding of non-compoundable offenses.

The judges thought that the above three decisions require to be re-considered as, in their opinion, something which cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly.

Related Provisions

  • Section 482, Cr.P.C.

 Saving of inherent power of High Court.—Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.

  • Section 320 of the code deals with the compounding of offenses. These are less serious and are of two different types as mentioned under S. 320 in two different tables:
    1. Compounding without the permission of the Court– Examples of these offenses include adultery, causing hurt, defamation criminal trespass.
    2. Court permission is required before compounding – Examples of such offenses are theft, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, assault on a woman to outrage her modesty, dishonest misappropriation of property amongst others, criminal breach of trust.
  • Compounding without the permission of the Court:
  • The offenses punishable under the Sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 specified in the first two columns of the table next following may be compounded by the persons mentioned in the third column of that table.

Few examples of such offenses are:

OffenseSection of the I.P.C. applicablePerson by whom offense may be compounded
Uttering words, etc. with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of the person298The person whose religious feelings are intended to be wounded
Causing hurt323, 334The person to whom the hurt is caused
Wrongfully restraining confining any person341, 342The person restrained or confined
Assault or use of criminal force352, 355, 358The person assaulted or to whom criminal force is used 
Mischief, when the only loss or damage caused is loss or damage to a private person426, 427The person to whom the loss or damage is caused
Criminal trespass447The person in possession of the property trespassed upon
House-trespass448The person in possession of the property trespassed upon
  • Court permission is required before compounding –
OffenseSection of the I.P.C. applicablePerson by whom offense may be compounded
Voluntarily causing grievous hurt325The person to whom hurt is caused
Voluntarily causing grievous hurt on grave and sudden provocation335The person to whom hurt is caused
Causing hurt by doing an act so rashly and negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others337The person to whom hurt is caused
Causing grievous hurt by doing an act so rashly and negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others338The person to whom hurt is caused
Wrongfully confining a person for three days or more343The person confined
Wrongfully confining for ten or more days344The person confined
Wrongfully confining a person in secret346The person confined
Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty354The woman assaulted to whom the criminal force was used

The offenses punishable under the Sections of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 specified in the first two columns of the table next following may, with the permission of the Court before which any prosecution for such offense is pending, be compounded by the persons mentioned in the third column of that Table. Few examples of such offenses are:

Related Cases

  • Narinder Singh v. the State of Punjab[4]

In the Narinder Singh Case, the Supreme Court took into consideration the Gian Singh Case and observed that the high court can quash the criminal proceedings even in case of non-compoundable offenses in the exercise of its inherent power under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C when the parties have entered into a compromise. However, this power must be used sparingly and with caution. The Supreme Court observed that even though offense under Section 307 of the IPC is against the society, the high courts can examine whether the incorporation of Section 307 of the IPC is for namesake or there is enough evidence to prove it.

The Supreme Court ultimately laid down that the decision in the Narinder Singh Case must be read harmoniously and as a whole in the circumstances existing therein.

In light of catena of decisions and considering the law on the point, the Supreme Court laid down the following guidelines for quashing criminal proceeding in case of non-compoundable offenses by high courts when invoking their inherent powers under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C:

  • The State of Rajasthan v. Shambhu Kewat [5]

The Supreme Court noted that, in the Shambhu Kewat Case, it was observed that the power of a criminal court is circumscribed by Section 320 of the CrPC while compounding of offenses and it is guided solely by it. On the other hand, the high court is guided by the material on record to form an opinion on whether to quash a criminal complaint in exercise of its power under Section 482 of the CrPC. The exercise of this power is to meet the ends of justice, although the ultimate consequence of this may be acquittal or dismissal of an indictment.

Judgment

The power of the High Court in quashing any criminal proceeding or FIR or complaint in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction is distinct and different from the power given to a criminal court for compounding the offenses under Section 320 of the Code. Inherent power is of wide plenitude with no statutory limitation but it has to be exercised in accord with the guideline engrafted in such power viz; (I) to secure the ends of justice or (ii) to prevent abuse of the process of any Court. In what cases power to quash the criminal proceeding or complaint or F.I.R may be exercised where the offender and victim have settled their dispute would depend on the facts and circumstances of each case and no category can be prescribed. However, before exercising such power, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the crime. Heinous and serious offenses of mental depravity or offenses like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. cannot be fittingly quashed even though the victim or victim’s family and the offender have settled the dispute.

In light of catena of decisions and considering the law on the point, the Supreme Court laid down the following guidelines for quashing criminal proceeding in case of non-compoundable offenses by high courts when invoking their inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC:

  • Predominantly civil nature of offense – The power conferred on high Courts under Section 482 of the CrPC to quash criminal proceeding for non-compoundable offenses under Section 320 of the CrPC can be exercised where the offense involved is merely a predominantly civil and commercial matter;
  • Heinous and serious offenses – High courts must refrain from quashing criminal proceedings if the offense is a heinous and serious offense which has a serious impact on society;
  • Offenses under Section 307 IPC – Even though the offense under Section 307 IPC falls under the category of heinous and serious offenses and is against the society, the high courts may not rest its decision merely on the fact that the offense involved is under Section 307 of the IPC. The high court may examine whether the incorporation of Section 307 of the IPC is for namesake or there is enough evidence to prove it. For this purpose, the high court may examine the nature of the injury, whether the injury is on a vital body part, the nature of the weapon used, etc. This would be permissible only after the evidence is collected and the charge-sheet is filed / charge is framed and / or during the trial. It is not permissible when the matter is under investigation;
  • Special statutes – The high court must refrain from quashing the criminal proceeding based on a compromise between the victim and the offender if the offense is under a special statute like Prevention of Corruption Act or committed by public servants while working in that capacity;
  • Antecedents/conduct of the accused – When the offenses involved are private, the high court, while exercising its power under Section 482 of the CrPC in respect of non-compoundable offenses on the ground that there is a compromise/settlement between the victim and accused, is required to consider the antecedents and conduct of the accused.

Conclusion

The High Court must consider whether it would be unfair or contrary to the interest of justice to continue with the criminal proceeding or continuation of the criminal proceeding would tantamount to abuse of process of law despite settlement and compromise between the victim and wrongdoer and whether to secure the ends of justice, it is appropriate that criminal case is put to an end and if the answer to the above question(s) is in affirmative, the High Court shall be well within its jurisdiction to quash the criminal proceeding.

References


[1] (2003) 4 SCC 675

[2] 2008) 9 SCC 677

[3] 2008) 16 SCC 1

[4] (2014) 6 SCC 466) (Narinder Singh Case)

[5] ((2014) 4 SCC 149) (Shambu Kewat Case)

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