A compromise is an agreement between two or more parties to settle their differences amicably, by avoiding a lawsuit.
Under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 there is a distinction made between compoundable offences and non-compoundable offences. In general words, compoundable offences are those offences where a compromise can be drawn between the parties in order to drop all charges against the accused and a non-compoundable offence is where the charges cannot be dropped against the accused by way of a compromise due to the seriousness of the offence.
Distinction between Compoundable and non- compoundable offences:
Section 320 of CrPC[i] deals with Compoundable offences, these are offences that are less serious in nature. Under a compoundable offence, the complainant who has filed the case may enter into a compromise and agree to drop all the charges against the accused. Two important elements that constitute such a compromise are that;
- such a compromise is bonafide;
- the complainant has not received any consideration that he is not entitled to.
Section 320 classifies compoundable offences into two types. The kinds of offences that fall under the different classification of compounding is as follows;
- Where Court permission is not required before compounding– Voluntarily causing hurt, Wrongfully restraining or confining any person, Assault or use of criminal force, Theft, Cheating, Fraudulent removal or concealment of property, Criminal trespass, Using a false trade or property mark, Adultery, Criminal intimidation etc.
- Where Court permission is required before compounding– Causing miscarriage, Voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Criminal breach of trust, Marrying again during the life-time of a husband or wife etc.
Non-compoundable offences are those offences that are slightly more serious in nature than compoundable offences. Due to the gravity of these offences, they cannot be compounded and they can only be quashed. All the offences that are not mentioned under section 320 of CrPC are classified as non-compoundable cases. In these cases, the State or the police act as the complainants and hence it is not possible for them to enter into a compromise with the accused to drop all the charges.
In the case of Rameshchandra J, Thakkar vs. A. P. Jhaveri & Anr[ii], it was held that, “where an acquittal is based on the compounding of an offence and the compounding is invalid under the law, the acquittal would be liable to be set aside by the High Court in exercise of its revisional powers.”
If a non-compoundable offence has been compounded, against the law and the accused has been acquitted based on the same compromise, the High Court has the power to set aside such an order.
Power of High Court under section 482 of CrPC:
Section 482 of CrPC[iii] gives the High Court inherent powers to deal with matters in order to;
- to give effect to any order under CrPC, or
- to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or
- to secure the ends of justice.
In the landmark case of Gian Singh vs State Of Punjab & Anr[iv] the Supreme Court held that “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 exercise of such power, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the crime. Heinous and serious offences of mental depravity or offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. cannot be fittingly quashed even though the victim or victim’s family and the offender have settled the dispute. Such offences are not private in nature and have serious impact on society.”
If the crime is serious in nature and has a grave impact on the society, the High Court is empowered to quash the proceedings even if the parties have arrived at a compromise. However, if it is a civil matter, the wrong is personal in nature and if the parties have resolved the dispute by way of a compromise then the proceedings may be quashed.
Narinder Singh v State of Punjab ((2014) 6 SCC 466):
In the above mentioned case, the Supreme Court took into consideration all the principles laid down in several judgements regarding compromise in non-compoundable cases and laid down the following guidelines for quashing criminal proceeding in case of non-compoundable offences by high courts when invoking their inherent powers under Section 482 of the CrPC;
If the proceedings deal with a civil or a commercial matter, the wrong done is personal in nature and therefore the High Court can quash the proceedings by invoking their powers under section 482 of CrPC.
Heinous and serious offences-
If the proceedings deal with a heinous or a serious offence, the High Court must refrain from exercising their powers under section 482 of CrPC to quash the proceedings.
Section 307 of IPC-
This section deals with attempt to murder under the Indian Penal Code and it is categorized as a heinous and a serious offence. However, in this case the Court held that the High Court cannot rest its case completely on the fact that it is classified as a serious offence and instead the High Court shall examine all the evidence presented and determine if incorporation of section 307 is for name sake or if there is actually enough evidence to prove the same. For this purpose, the High Court shall examine the nature of injury, on which part of the body the injury is made, nature of the weapon used etc.
If the offences are under special statutes like Prevention of Corruption Act etc., the High Court must refrain from quashing the criminal proceedings even if the parties have entered into a compromise.
Conduct of the Accused-
When the offences involved are private in nature, the high court, while exercising its power under Section 482 of the CrPC in respect of non-compoundable offences on ground that there is a compromise / settlement between the victim and accused, is required to consider the antecedents and conduct of the accused.[v]
Therefore, the above mentioned guidelines are to be taken into consideration when the High Court is quashing a proceeding because the parties have arrived at a compromise in a non-compoundable offence. The Supreme Court under a bench of Justices R.Banumathi and A.S. Bopanna in the case of Manjit Singh vs. State of Punjab[vi] held that it would not be appropriate to ignore and keep aside statutory provisions in order to allow compounding of an offence that is not compoundable under the law. However, they also said that while sentencing the accused for a non-compoundable offence, the compromise entered into between the parties is indeed a relevant circumstance for considering the quantum of sentence.
Edited by Pushpamrita Roy
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
[i] § 320, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
[ii]1973 AIR 84
[iii]§ 482, Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
[iv]((2012) 10 SCC 303)
[vi][Criminal Appeal Nos. 1090 of 2019 arising out of SLP (CRL.) No. 8293 of 2018]