The power of a court to compound an offence u/s 320 CrPC is different from the power of the High Court to quash a criminal proceeding u/s 482 CrPC.
The High Court can quash a criminal proceeding even if it involves a non-compoundable offence, however, subject to the two disjunctive preconditions stipulated in Section 482: first, to prevent abuse of the process of any court; or second, to secure the ends of justice.
It is now fairly settled that a criminal proceeding – which is either civil in foundation (e.g. financial or property disputes) or arises out of familial / matrimonial relationship – can be quashed by the High Court if the alleged offender(s) and the alleged victim(s) have settled the dispute amongst themselves.
The underlying logic expounded in the case law is because such disputes are fundamentally private or personal in nature.
However, such power cannot be exercised in cases involving heinous & grave offences and offences which have severe societal impact (e.g. murder, rape, dacoity, etc.) even though the dispute has been settled amongst the concerned parties.
But such heinous & grave offences (e.g. rape) can be quashed if the victim / complainant / prosecutrix comes forward and states that the allegations levelled by her were either wrong or made under a mistaken belief – as it is not a case of settlement.
Author’s Note: The aforesaid distinction between the two categories of offences is a bit problematic and the same becomes apparent once one analyses the kind of offences pigeonholed as those being personal or private in nature and those having severe societal impact.
For instance, a person committing murder of his friend on account of a financial dispute might not have any societal impact at all. On the other hand, a builder / developer duping hundreds of homebuyers of their hard-earned monies might have a grave societal impact. However, as per the current position of law, the former case cannot be quashed even though the family members of the deceased have settled their dispute with the murderer; but the latter can be, on the basis of a settlement between the builder / developer and the homebuyers.
I am not suggesting that cases of murder should be quashed on settlement.
The aforesaid distinction between the two categories of offences can be better appreciated if it is viewed from a different vantage point i.e. a conceptual juxtaposition of crimes which are mala in se with those which are mala prohibita; although the case law does not discuss the same.
Guest post by Sholab Arora, Advocate, DHC and P&H HC
- Kulwinder Singh v. State of Punjab, (2007) 4 CTC 769
- Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303
- Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujrat, (2017) 9 SCC 641
- Danish Ali v. State, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 11712
- Lalit Kumar Vats v. State, 2020 SCC OnLine Del 1956
- Mukhtiyaar Ali v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 4428
- Dalbir Singh v. State, 2021 SCC OnLine Del 5449
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