The essential object of criminal law is to protect society against criminals and law- breakers. For this purpose, the law holds out threats of punishments to prospective lawbreakers as well as attempts to make the actual offenders suffer the prescribed the punishment for their crimes. Therefore, criminal law, in its wider sense, consists of both the substantive criminal law as well as the procedural criminal law. Substantive criminal law defines offences and prescribes punishments for the same, while the procedural law is to administer the substantive law.
Our legal system’s law of crime is mainly contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which has come into force from April 1, 1974. It provides the machinery for the detection of crime, apprehension of suspected criminals, collection of evidence, determination of the guilt or innocence of the suspected person and the imposition of suitable punishment on the guilty person. In addition, this Code also deals with the prevention of offences (Sections 106- 124, 129- 132 and 144- 153), maintenance of wives, children and parents (Sections 125- 128) and public nuisances (Sections 133- 143).
The Code also controls and regulates the working of the machinery set up for the investigation and trial of offences. On the one hand it has to give adequately wide powers to make the investigation and adjudicatory processes strong, effective and efficient, and on the other hand, it has to take precautions against errors of judgment and human failures and to provide safeguards against probable abuse of powers by the police or judicial officers. This often involves a “nice balancing of conflicting considerations, a delicate weighing of opposing claims clamouring for recognition and the extremely difficult task of deciding which of them should predominate”.
The Code has obviously tried to make itself exhaustive and complete in every respect; and it has generally succeeded in this attempt. However, if the Court finds that the Code has not made specific provision to meet the exigencies of any situation, the court of law has inherent power to mould the procedure to enable it to pass such orders as the ends of justice may require.
The power to quash an FIR (First Information Report) is among the inherent powers of the High Courts of India. Courts possessed this power even before the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) was enacted. Added as Section 482 by an amendment in 1923, it is a reproduction of the section 561(A) of the 1898 code. Since high courts could not render justice even in cases in which the illegal was apparent, the section was created as a reminder to the courts that they exist to prevent injustice done by a subordinate court.
In R.P. Kapur v. State of Punjab, the Supreme Court considered the circumstances in which the High Court can, by invoking its inherent powers, quash the criminal proceedings in a subordinate criminal court. The Supreme Court observed:
“It is not possible, desirable or expedient to lay down any inflexible rule which would govern the exercise of this inherent jurisdiction. However, we may indicate some categories of cases where the inherent jurisdiction can and should be exercised for quashing the proceedings. There may be cases where it may be possible for the High Court to take the view that the institution or continuance of criminal proceedings against an accused person may amount to the abuse of the process of the court or that the quashing of the impugned proceedings would secure the ends of justice. If the criminal proceeding in question is in respect of an offence alleged to have been committed by an accused person and it manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or continuance of the said proceeding the High Court would be justified in quashing the proceeding on that ground. Absence of the requisite sanction may, for instance, furnish cases under this category. Cases may also arise where the al1egations in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not constitute the offence alleged; in such cases no question of appreciating evidence arises; it is a matter merely of looking at the complaint or the First Information Report to decide whether the offence alleged is disclosed or not. In such cases it would be legitimate for the High Court to hold that it would be manifestly unjust to allow the process of the criminal court to be issued against the accused person. A third category of cases in which the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court can be successfully invoked may also arise. In cases falling under this category the allegations made against the accused person do constitute an offence alleged but there is either no legal evidence adduced in support of the case or evidence adduced clearly or manifestly fails to prove the charge. In dealing with this class of cases it is important to bear in mind the distinction between a case where there is no legal evidence or where there is evidence which is manifestly and clearly inconsistent with the accusation made and cases where there is legal evidence which on its appreciation may or may not support the accusation in question. In exercising its jurisdiction under Section 482 of the Code the High Court would not embark upon an enquiry as to whether the evidence in question is reliable or not.”
The following cases have been stated by the Supreme Court, by way of illustration wherein the extraordinary power under Article 226 or inherent power under Section 482 can be exercised by the High Court to prevent abuse of process of any court or to secure justice, while quashing the FIR :
1. Where the allegations in the FIR/complaint, even if they are taken at their face value do not prima facie constitute any offence against the accused.
2. Where the allegations in the FIR or other materials do not constitute a cognizable offence justifying an investigation by the police under Section 156(1) of the code except under an Order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2).
3. Where the uncontroverted allegations in the FIR/complaint and the evidence collected thereon do not disclose the commission of any offence.
4. Where the allegations in the FIR or other materials do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute a non- cognizable offence to which no investigation is permitted by the police without Order of a Magistrate under Section 155(2).
5. Where the allegations are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
6. Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or statute concerned (under which the proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or where there is a specific provision in the code or in the statute concerned, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
7. Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide intention and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wrecking vengeance on the accused with a view to spite him due to private and personal vengeance.
Grounds above-mentioned are merely illustrative and not exhaustive and each case must be decided on its own facts and circumstances.