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Himachal Pradesh HC: High Court Has Powers to Quash Proceedings of Non-Compoundable Cases

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On 14th December 2020, a Single Judge Bench consisting of Hon’ble Justice Sandeep Sharma heard the case of Apram Puri v. State of Himachal Pradesh & another via video conferencing.

The petition was filed under Section 482 (Saving of inherent powers of High Court) of the Criminal Procedure Code, where the prayer was made on behalf of the Petitioner for quashing of FIR under Sections 279 (Rash driving or riding on a public way), 337 and 338 (Causing hurt by act endangering life or personal safety of others) of Indian Penal Code and Section 181, 182 and 184 (Driving dangerously) of Motor Vehicles Act, registered at Police Station, Palampur, District Kangra, H.P. 

Facts of the case

The averments contained in the petition reveal that at about 11:20 a.m., the Respondent’s car was hit by the Petitioner’s car which was driven in a rash and negligent manner, due to which the Respondent suffered multiple injuries as well as damage to the car.

The parties had entered into a compromise, whereby both the parties had resolved to settle their dispute amicably inter se them. In this context, the Petitioner approached the Court, with the prayer to quash and set-aside the FIR as well as the proceedings.

Submissions of the Respondent

Mr Anand Sharma, learned Additional Advocate General, stated that since the parties resolved to settle their dispute amicably, there were very bleak chances of conviction of the Petitioner and as such, no fruitful purpose would be served in case FIR lodged at the behest of the Respondent/complainant as well as consequent proceedings was allowed to sustain.

Court’s Analysis

The Court deemed it fit to consider the petition in the light of the case of Narinder Singh and others vs. State of Punjab, (2014) Supreme Court Cases 466, which held that: 

“When the parties have reached the settlement and on that basis petition for quashing the criminal proceedings is filed, the guiding factor in such cases would be to secure: 

  1. Ends of justice, or 
  2. To prevent abuse of the process of any Court.

While exercising the power under Section 482 Cr. P.C the High Court is to form an opinion on either of the aforesaid two objectives.

While deciding whether to exercise its power under Section 482 of the Code or not, timings of settlement play a crucial role. Those cases where the settlement is arrived at immediately after the alleged commission of the offence and the matter is still under investigation, the High Court may be liberal in accepting the settlement to quash the criminal proceedings/investigation.”

The Court further referred to Gian Singh v. State of Punjab and anr., (2012) 10 SCC 303, which held that “The power of the High Court in quashing a 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 offences under Section 320 (Compounding of offences) of the CrPC”.

The Court further laid down certain principles which emerge from the precedents on the subject which are:

  1. Section 482 preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice.
  2. The High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent powers while deciding whether to quash a complaint/proceeding whilst the exercise of jurisdiction under Sec 482. 
  3. The decision to quash the complaint/proceeding on the ground that the victim and the offender settled the dispute, will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case, and no exhaustive elaboration of principles can be formulated.
  4. Criminal cases which involve offences which are civil in flavour such as commercial and financial transactions may fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute.
  5. An exception to the previous rule is that the Court can decline in quashing the complaint/proceedings in case of financial or commercial fraud or misdemeanour. 

Court’s Decision

The Court held that the High Court has inherent power to quash criminal proceedings even in those cases which are not compoundable, but such power is to be exercised sparingly and with great caution.

The Court kept in mind the well-settled proposition of law and the genuine settlement between the parties, and thus allowed the petition by quashing the proceedings as well as the FIR under Sections 279, 337, 338 of IPC and Section 181, 182 and 184 of the Motor Vehicles Act.

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