SC: Criminal Courts Not to Compound Non-Compoundable Cases Casually

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In this case the court was confronted with criminal appeals emanating from decisions of Karnataka High Court and Madhya Pradesh High Court, both of which raised an identical question of law. The Court clubbed these appeals to attend to the identical question. 

Brief Facts 

First Appeal 

An FIR was registered on 3rd November 2000 at Amba Police station of Madhya Pradesh, alleging that the appellant has assaulted the complainant over a money dispute. The allegation against appellant 1 is that he attacked the complainant with Pharsa, which resulted in the complainant losing his little finger, and the allegation against appellant no 2 is that he struck the complainant with lathis. The Trial Court convicted the appellants under Sections 294, 323, and 326 read with 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC). The appellants assailed their convictions before the sessions judge and during its pendency, a compromise was arrived at by the parties. The Sessions Judge acquitted the appellants from all other charges but upheld their conviction under section 326 read with section 34, owing to the fact that the said offense was non-compoundable within the scheme of Section 320 C.R.P.C. Still aggrieved the appellants approached the High Court, which upheld the decision of the trial court owing to the fact that the offense was non-compoundable. The appellants approached the Supreme Court seeking compounding of their Actus Reus under Section 326 of the IPC, in view of settlement between the parties. 

Second Appeal 

An FIR was registered on 28th January 1995, at Thirthahalli, Shimoga police station in Karnataka. The allegation against the appellants and other accused are that they lured the complainant, who belonged to the same family into their house and assaulted him with weapons after tying his hands to the window, due to the fact that he was passing inculpatory information to the forest department officials which had caused them financial troubles. It is further alleged that Accused no 5 to 7 instigated the appellants to assault the complainant with fists and kicks. The trial court convicted the appellants and accused under Sections 143, 144, 147, 148, 342, 324, and 326 read with 149 IPC and the maximum sentence awarded to them was of two years simple imprisonment under   Section   326   IPC. The Accused no 6 absconded. The appellants and co-accused approached the High Court. The High Court acquitted accused no 5 and 7, due to lack of evidence but convicted the appellants. In this case, as well a compromise was entered into it but no record was submitted to the Trial Court and the High Court. The appellants approached the Supreme Court, seeking compounding of their offenses, in lieu of a compromise entered into by the parties.

The reasoning of the Court 

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The Court relied on Gian Singh v State of Punjab which ruled that the power of the High Court under section 482 is of wider amplitude than section 320 of the C.R.P.C for compounding of offenses. It also ruled that inherent powers have no statutory limitations. 

The Court also placed reliance on the State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Laxmi Narayan & Ors. Which ruled that the High Courts Can invoke their inherent jurisdictions to compound non-compoundable offenses in which compromise is being arrived at provided these offenses do not harm the society at large and with certain other caveats such as previous antecedents of the accused, the conduct of the accused and whether the compromise entered into was free from coercion and threat. 

Analysis 

The Court by placing reliance on precedents came to a conclusion that offenses that are non-compoundable cannot be compounded by a criminal court exercising its powers under section 320 C.R.PC. Any such attempt the court would amount to alteration, addition, and modification of Section 320 Cr. P.C, which is the exclusive domain of the legislature, however, the limitation of section 320 C.R. PC cannot be an embargo in the exercise of powers by the High Court. The High Court can compound non-compoundable offenses keeping in mind the nature offense and the fact that parties have amicably settled their dispute. And the fact that the victim has willingly consented to the nullification of criminal proceedings.

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The Court then stated that power under Article 142 is at an entirely different level and of a   different quality. Prohibitions or limitations or provisions contained in ordinary laws cannot, ipso facto, act as prohibitions or limitations on the constitutional powers under  Article 142.

Decision of the Court 

First Appeal 

The court set aside the orders passed by the trial court and the high court and acquitted the appellants for all intents and purposes 

Second Appeal 

Since no settlement deed was presented before the trial court and the high court, the court ordered the appellants as well as the complainant to appear before the Chief Judicial Magistrate and submit their settlement. In case the settlement is Bonafede, this appeal would be considered as disposed of in the same terms as the first appeal that would mean appellants to be acquitted. If no report is submitted or a verse finding comes to light the appeal shall stand dismissed as no other question of law was raised in the said appeal. 

Click here to view the Judgement


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