New Delhi, Aug. 2: The Supreme Court has ruled that even some non-compoundable criminal offences can be quashed on the ground of a genuine desire for compromise among the disputing parties, particularly in matrimonial disputes.
An offence is “compoundable” if, under the law, courts can quash the case following a compromise between the alleged victim and the accused, some examples being trespass, causing hurt, adultery and hurting religious feelings. More serious offences like murder and rape are not compoundable.
This week, the bench of Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and N.V. Ramana ruled that the high courts and the Supreme Court can quash even some cases where the criminal offence is not compoundable if:
The parties’ desire to bury the hatchet is genuine; and
The offence relates to individual relationships and is “personal in nature” rather than a heinous crime against society.
“If there is a genuine compromise between husband and wife, criminal complaints arising out of matrimonial discord can be quashed even if the offences alleged therein are non-compoundable, because such offences are personal in nature and do not have repercussions on society unlike heinous offences like murder, rape, etc,” the judgment said.
It added: “The inherent power of the high court under Section 482 of the (Criminal Procedure) Code is not inhibited by Section 320 of the code.”
Section 320 says which offences are compoundable under the law; Section 482 empowers the high courts to quash pending criminal cases.
Till now, courts had granted such relief in rare individual cases involving non-compoundable offences. The latest judgment is likely to be cited in matrimonial cases where the parties have reached a compromise, quickening their disposal and helping reduce the backlog in courts.
The court said: “If the high court forms an opinion that it is necessary to quash the proceedings to prevent abuse of the process of any court (a reference to cases dragging on) or to secure the ends of justice, the high court can do so…. Needless to say that this court can also follow such a course.”
The court allowed a compromise between an estranged couple, under which husband Manohar Singh had agreed to pay Rs 3 lakh as compensation to wife Reena, despite the Madhya Pradesh government pointing out that the offence was non-compoundable.
In the trial court, Singh and his parents had been acquitted of charges under Section 498A (cruelty by husband or in-laws) of the penal code and the Dowry Act. A sessions court reversed the acquittal and awarded two-year terms to the trio.
Madhya Pradesh High Court acquitted the parents and reduced Singh’s term to six months. Singh moved an appeal in the apex court and during the case’s pendency, filed another application through counsel Dushaya Parashar saying the couple had reached a compromise.
While the counsel for the couple pleaded for leniency, the state opposed any relief. The court, citing the couple’s “real desire to bury the hatchet in the interest of peace”, reduced Singh’s sentence to the time he had already spent in prison --- seven days.