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Key Takeaways

  • Non-compoundable offences cannot be compounded; only quashing can be used to deal with non-compoundable offences.
  • Compoundable offences are described in Section 320(1) and Section 320(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). Section 320 (9) states that all those offences not mentioned in the list under Section 320 of CrPC are non-compoundable offences.
  • In exercising its inheritance of power, the High Court cannot allow non-compoundable offences until the Supreme Court grants such permission in special cases.
  • The history of compoundable and non-compoundable cases in India has been filled with discrepancies. However, the Courts have, from time to time, sought to solve the dispute.
  • In Manjit Singh vs. the State of Punjab, the Supreme Court held that it would not be appropriate to disregard the statutory provisions to allow compounding an offence that is not compoundable under the law.

What are Non-Compoundable Offences

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, distinguishes the compoundable from the non-compoundable. Non-compoundable offences cannot be compounded, as opposed to compoundable offences, which are those in which the complainant and the accused reach an agreement in which the complainant receives a bona fide consideration to dropping the charges.

Only quashing can be used to deal with non-compoundable offences. The reason for this is that the nature of the crime is so serious and criminal that the Accused cannot get away with it. Generally, in cases like these, the "state" or "police" files the case. Therefore, neither the complainant nor the defendant can seek compromise. A non-compoundable offence affects both the individual as well as the society.

Compoundable offences are described in Section 320(1) and Section 320(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). How an offence can be classified depending on how it is compounded are as follows.;

  • Court's permission not required – Voluntarily causing hurt, wrongfully restraining or confining any person, Assault or use of criminal force, Theft, Cheating, Fraudulent removal or concealment of property, Criminal trespass, Using a false trade or property mark, Adultery, Criminal intimidation, etc.
  • Court's permission is required – Causing miscarriage, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, Criminal breach of trust, Marrying again during the lifetime of a husband or wife, etc.

Section 320 (9) states that all those offences not mentioned in the list under Section 320 of CrPC are non-compoundable offences. Even the Court has no power and authority to allow a compromise in non-compoundable offences. The full trial concludes based on the evidence given, with the acquittal or condemnation of the offender.

In Mahesh Chand vs. the State of Rajasthan, a controversy was raised regarding offences not covered under sub-section (1) and (2) and their compounding. In this case, the Supreme Court allowed the compounding of offences under Section 307, I.P.C. (attempt to commit murder). This confused the entire judicial system and conflicting decisions by various High Courts.

This confusion was brought to a conclusion by the Supreme Court, in the case of Ram Lal vs. J&K state -

"It is apparent that when the decision in Mahesh Chand vs. the State of Rajasthan was rendered, the attention of learned Judges was not drawn to the aforesaid legal prohibition… We hold that an offence which the law declares to be non-compoundable even with the permission of the Court cannot be compounded at all."

Hence, if a criminal case is declared non-compoundable, it will be against the public policy to compound it. Also, it will be entirely void in law. In exercising its inheritance of power, the High Court cannot allow non-compoundable offences to be compounded until the Supreme Court grants such permission in special cases.

Inherent Powers to High Courts and the Discrepancies

Section 482 of CrPC enshrines some inherent powers with the High Court to deal with matters;

  • to give effect to any order under CrPC, or
  • to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or
  • to secure the ends of justice.

In the case of Rameshchandra J, Thakkar vs. A. P. Jhaveri & Anr (1973 A.I.R. 84), the following observation was made: if an offense is compounded and the accused has been acquitted based on the same compromise, the High Court can dismiss the Order.

Also, in the landmark case of Gian Singh vs. State of Punjab & Anr ((2012) 10 SCC 303), the Supreme Court held that even if the crime is serious in nature and has a significant impact on society and if the parties have reached an agreement, the High Court has the authority to quash the proceedings. If it is a civil matter, the wrong is personal, and the parties have reached an agreement, the proceedings may be quashed.

However, in the case of Narinder Singh v State of Punjab ((2014) 6 SCC 466), in invoking their inherent powers in accordance to Section 482 of the CrPC, the Supreme Court has considered all of the principles set out for several rulings in non-compoundable cases and laid down the following guidelines for quashing the criminal procedure for non-compoundable crimes by high courts;

  • Suppose the proceedings are about a civil or commercial matter. In that case, the wrong done is private, then the High Court can quash them by using its powers under section 482 of the CrPC.
  • Suppose the case involves a heinous or serious crime. In that case, the High Court must not exercise its power to quash the proceedings under section 482 of the CrPC.
  • Under the Indian Penal Code, Section 307 deals with the attempt to murder, which is classified as a heinous and serious crime. However, the Court held that the High Court could not base its case solely because it is classified as a serious offence. Rather, the High Court must examine all of the evidence presented and determine whether the incorporation of section 307 is merely for show or if there is sufficient evidence to prove the same. The High Court will consider the nature of the injury, the location of the injury on the body, the weapon used, and other factors.
  • Even if the parties have reached an agreement, the High Court must not dismiss the criminal proceedings if the offences are covered by special statutes such as the Prevention of Corruption Act.
  • Lastly, when the offences are private, the High Court must consider the accused's conduct when exercising its power under Section 482 of the CrPC regarding non-compoundable offences on the ground that the victim and accused have reached an agreement.

Finally, in Manjit Singh vs. State of Punjab (S.L.P. (CRL.) No. 8293 of 2018), the Supreme Court held that it would not be appropriate to disregard the statutory provisions to allow compounding an offence that is not compoundable under the law. However, they also stated that, when sentencing the accused for a non-compoundable offence, the parties' agreement is a relevant circumstance to consider when determining the sentence quantum.

However, the power granted under Sec.482 cannot be used according to one's discretion. It can be made out that if the courts do not exercise caution and caution when invoking the provisions of Section 482, human society may suffer a significant loss. It has the potential to erode public trust in the judicial system.

Conclusion and Suggestions

As non-compoundable offences have always been a dicey matter, the decision whether an offence is compoundable or not cannot solely rely on the discretion of the Court. It must be made a goal to strike a balance between the ends of justice and criminality. In any way, real criminals must be apprehended, and to benefit the innocent; no relaxation should be granted to the actual offenders.

To sum up, it may be suggested that only the cases that are not serious, for instance, any civil, commercial, or family dispute, that does not endanger the public sand the society as a whole and is truly private, maybe brought under the criteria of compoundable offences.


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