Compounding of Offences

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compounding of offences

To compound means “to settle a matter by a money payment, in lieu 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 offences 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. 

Compoundable offences

Compoundable offences are those offences where, the complainant (one who has filed the case, i.e. the victim), enter into a compromise, and agrees to have the charges dropped against the accused.  Section 320 of the code deals with compounding of offences. These are less serious in nature 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 offences include adultery, causing hurt, defamation criminal trespass.
2. Court permission is required before compounding – Examples of such offences are theft, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, assault on a woman with intention to outrage her modesty, dishonest misappropriation of property amongst others, criminal breach of trust.

 In Bhagyan Das vs The State of Uttarakhand & anr,[i] The Supreme Court has observed that a court has discretion to reject a plea to compound an offence having social impact, even if the offence is compoundable under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. “Merely because an offence is compoundable under Section 320 CrPC, still discretion can be exercised by the court having regard to nature of offence.”

Compounding without the permission of the Court:

  • The offences 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 offences are:

Offence

Section of the I.P.C. applicable

Person by whom offence may be compounded

1. Uttering words, etc. with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of person

298

The person whose religious feelings are intended to be wounded

2. Causing hurt

323, 334

The person to whom the hurt is caused

3. Wrongfully restraining confining any person

341, 342

The person restrained or confined

4. Assault or use of criminal force

352, 355, 358

The person assaulted or to whom criminal force is used 

5. Mischief, when the only loss or damage caused is loss or damage to a private person

426, 427

The person to whom the loss or damage is caused

6. Criminal trespass

447

The person in possession of the property trespassed upon

7. House-trespass

448

The person in possession of the property trespassed upon

 

Court permission is required before compounding –

The offences 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 offence is pending, be compounded by the persons mentioned in the third column of that Table. Few examples of such offences are:

Offence

Section of the I.P.C. applicable

Person by whom offence may be compounded

1. Voluntarily causing grievous hurt

325

The person to whom hurt is caused

2. Voluntarily causing grievous hurt on grave and sudden provocation

335

The person to whom hurt is caused

3. Causing hurt by doing an act so rashly and negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others

337

The person to whom hurt is caused

4. Causing grievous hurt by doing an act so rashly and negligently as to endanger human life or the personal safety of others

338

The person to whom hurt is caused

5. Wrongfully confining a person for three days or more

343

The person confined

6. Wrongfully confining for ten or more days

344

The person confined

7. Wrongfully confining a person in secret

346

The person confined

8. Assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty

354

The woman assaulted to whom the criminal force was used

 

In Gian Singh v. State of Punjab[ii], wherein the constitution bench had observed that compounding powers should be exercised by the Court considering the social impact of the crime in question vis-à-vis its individual impact, as decisive criterion for quashing power in such cases.

Other provision governing Compounding of Offences-

The general rule embodied under sub section (3) provides that when any offence is compoundable under Section 320 of the Code, the abetment of such offence or an attempt to commit such offence (when such attempt is itself an offence) may be compounded in like manner. The Supreme Court, in the landmark case of Mahesh Chand vs. State of Rajasthan[iii], gave permission to compound attempt to commit murder offence under Section 307 IPC.

As per Sub Section (5) of Section 320, when the accused has been committed for trial or when he has been convicted and an appeal is pending, no composition for the offence shall be allowed without the leave of the Court to which he is committed or, as the case may be, before which the appeal is to be heard. Application for compounding the offence shall be made before the same court before which the trial is proceeding.

Sub Section (6) provides that a High Court or Court of Session acting in the exercise of its powers of revision under Section 401 may allow any person to compound any offence which such person is competent to compound under Section 320 of the Code.

Sub section (7) provides for a limitation to compounding of offences. It says that no offence shall be compounded if the accused is, by reason of a previous conviction, liable either to enhanced punishment or to a punishment of a different kind for such offence.

Effect Of Compounding Of An Offence

Sub Section (8) prescribes that a compounding of offence under section 320 shall have the effect of acquittal of the accused with whom such offence has been compounded.

Kulwinder Singh vs. State of Punjab & Another[iv], High Court held that the offence under sections 406 and 120-B I.P.C qua the present petitioners in both these revision petitions are compounded and the conviction and sentence of the petitioners is set aside.”

Prohibition Regarding Compounding Of Offences

Sub section (9) bars any contravention from the provisions of Section 320. It prescribes that no offence shall be compounded except as provided by Section 320 of the Code.

Compounding Provisions in other Countries

Compounding a felony was an offence under the common law of England and was classified as a misdemeanor. It consisted of a prosecutor or victim of an offence accepting anything of value under an agreement not to prosecute, or to hamper the prosecution of, a felony. To “compound”, in this context, means to come to a settlement or agreement. It is not compounding for the victim to accept an offer to return stolen property, or to make restitution, as long as there is no agreement not to prosecute.[v]

Under the common law, compounding a felony was punishable as a misdemeanor. Many states have enacted statutes that punish the offense as a felony. Compounding a misdemeanor is not a crime. However, an agreement not to prosecute a misdemeanor is unenforceable as being contrary to public policy. Criminal liability for compounding is pervasive in American law, at least in theory. In forty-five states, the compounding of a crime may be prosecuted as a statutory offense, in two others it apparently may be prosecuted as a common law offense.

Compounding has been abolished in England and Wales, in Northern Ireland, in the Republic of Ireland, and in New South Wales.

Illustrations-

1. If X causes hurt to Y, in such circumstances the offence can be compounded only on the instance of the person to whom the hurt is caused i.e. Y.

2. If A wrongfully confines B for three days or more, such an offence can be compounded on permission of court on the instance of the person confined i.e. B.

3. If an offence has been compounded in favor of X, compounding of such offence under section 320 shall have the effect of acquittal of the accused.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)-

1. What is the difference between Compounding of Offences and Plea Bargaining?

The distinction between compounding of offence and plea bargaining is that compounding is stigma free, whereas plea bargaining has some taint of guilt. Lesser punishment is awarded in plea bargaining for not fully contesting the case.

2. What is the effect of Compounding under section 320?

According to Section 320(8), compounding of offence shall have the effect of acquittal of the accused.

3. When the person who would otherwise be competent to compound an offence under Section 320 is dead, who can compound on his behalf?

According to Section 320(4) (b), When the person who would otherwise be competent to compound an offence under Section 320 is dead, the legal representative, of such person may, with the consent of the Court, compound such offence.

Reference

[i]Bhagyan Das vs The State of Uttarakhand & anr CRR No. 465 of 2019

[ii] Gian Singh v. State of Punjab (2012) 10 SCC 303

[iii] Mahesh Chand vs. State of Rajasthan AIR 1988 SC 2111

[iv] Kulwinder Singh versus State of Punjab & Another CRR No.1233 of 2017 

[v] Boyce & Perkins, Criminal Law, 3rd ed. (1992) at 578.

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