Decisions give guidance on handling of criminal cases

By Vivek Vashi and Nandini Singh, Bharucha & Partners
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In two recent cases the Supreme Court has provided valuable guidance to criminal courts across the country.

Resolution via compromise

In the case of Narinder Singh & Ors v State of Punjab & Anr, the Supreme Court addressed the question of whether a first information report (FIR) can be quashed under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), pursuant to a compromise in a matter involving the commission of a heinous crime and where the victim suffered serious injuries. The court was considering a decision of Punjab and Haryana High Court which had held that an attempt to commit murder under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, was incapable of being compounded (i.e. resolved through a settlement) and there could be no acquittal on the basis of such a compromise.

Vivek Vashi
Vivek Vashi

The Supreme Court held that the powers under section 482 are wide enough to provide for an acquittal pursuant to a compromise even in such cases. Its conclusion was based on the following factors: (a) when parties arrive at a compromise in relation to non-compoundable offences, compounding is permissible but requires the approval of the court; (b) the power conferred under section 482 of the CrPC is to be distinguished from the power which lies with the high court to compound offences under section 320 of the CrPC; (c) the power under section 482 is not to be resorted to if there is a specific provision in the CrPC for redressal of the grievance; (d) the guiding factors in quashing criminal proceedings where parties have reached a settlement are to secure the ends of justice and prevent abuse of the process of any court; (e) ordinarily the power is not to be exercised in prosecutions involving heinous and serious offences as such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society; (f) even though offences under section 307 are heinous, the court cannot rest its decision merely on a mention of section 307 in the FIR but should examine whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the offence; (g) the timing of the settlement plays a crucial role in the court’s decision whether to exercise its power under the CrPC.

This decision yet again demonstrates that the court’s powers under section 482 of the CrPC are wide and extraordinary and are capable of covering diverse matters as was held in State of Haryana & Ors v Bhajanlal & Ors (1990), Nikhil Merchant v Central Bureau of Investigation & Anr (2008) and Gian Singh v State of Punjab & Anr (2010).

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Vivek Vashi is the mainstay of the litigation team at Bharucha & Partners, where Nandini Singh is a senior associate.

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