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Key Takeaways

  • An agreement or settlement between the injured party and the person who is the subject of the complaint is known as a composition.
  • Compoundable offences are those that can be resolved by the parties coming to an agreement.
  • The application for the offence to be compounded must be filed in the same court where the trial is going on.
  • Non-compoundable offences are those that are not listed in Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code.
  • Under Section 482 of the CrPc, the HCs have inherent power, but those powers should be used sparingly and with caution.

Introduction

The Indian legal system recognizes several offences. Section - 2 (n) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 defines "offence."An offence is an illegal act or crime that is punishable by law. The Code Criminal Procedure Code of 1973 recognizes three types of offences. They are Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offences; Bailableand Non-Bailable offence; Compoundable and Non-Compoundable offence. This article aims at describing the differences between Compoundable and Non-Compoundable Offences.

What is Composition

A composition is an agreement or settlement between the injured party and the person who is the subject of the complaint. It could be in writing or oral. Compounding an offence does not imply that the crime was not committed; rather, it implies that the crime was committed, but the victim is willing to forgive the offender or accept adequate restitution for his losses. When both parties agree to a compromise, the case must be resolved in accordance with the terms of the agreement, and the offender must be acquitted.

Compoundable Offences

Compoundable offences are those offences that can be resolved by reaching an agreement between the parties. For not further prosecuting the accused, the aggrieved person receives some form of compensation or gratification. A list of compoundable offences punishable under various sections of the Indian Penal Code is found in Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Composition without the Court's permission is allowed in the cases mentioned in Section 320(1).

Composition effected with the Court's permission in cases is mentioned under Section 320(2) of the Code. A composition is a settlement agreement between the aggrieved party and the accused. If both the parties agree to settle the dispute or compromise, then the Court disposes of the case.

Compoundable offences are less serious criminal offences that fall into two categories listed in the code:

  • The cases in which permission of the Court is required before compounding.
  • The cases in which permission of the Court is not required before compounding.

The application for compounding the offence must be filed in the same court where the trial is being held. An offence that has been compounded has the same effect as if the accused had been acquitted of the charges.

Some examples of Compoundable Offences are:

  • Section 298, IPC –Uttering words, etc., with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person causing hurt.
  • Section 447 and 448, IPC –Criminal or house-trespass.
  • Section 491, IPC –Criminal breach of contract of service.
  • Section 501, IPC – Printing or engraving matters, knowing it to be defamatory.
  • Section 504, IPC – Insult intended to provoke a breach of the peace.

There are some offences that, while compoundable, can only be compounded with the Court's permission. Prior to the start of the trial, these offences should be compounded. In addition, where an accused has already been convicted, and an appeal is pending, the Court must be asked for permission to compound such offences. The reason for requesting the Court for approval is that these are serious offences that set a bad example in society.

Non-Compoundable offences

Some offences, known as non-compoundable offences, cannot be compounded. They can only be quashed. The reason for this is that the nature of the crime is so severe and criminal that the accused cannot get away with it. As the "state," i.e., the police, has filed the case in these types of cases, the question of the complainant entering into a compromise does not arise.

Non-compoundable offences are those that are not listed in the list under Section 320 of the CrPC. In the case of a non-compoundable offence, both the private party and the society are affected. No compromise is usually permitted in a non-compoundable offence. Compounding such an offence is beyond the authority and power of the Court. A full trial is held, culminating in the offender's acquittal or conviction based on the evidence presented.

Some examples of Non-Compoundable Offences are:

  • Section 324, IPC – Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means.
  • Section 336, IPC – Act, endangering the life or personal safety of others.
  • Section 353, IPC – Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty.
  • Section 364, IPC – Kidnapping or abducting in order to murder.

Differences between Compoundable and Non- Compoundable Offences

The following is a list of the differences between compoundable and non-compoundable offences:

  • Nature of the crime: The nature of the offence is not as serious in a compoundable offence. In contrast, the nature of the offence in the non-compoundable offence is grave.
  • Withdrawal of charges:Charges against an accused person who has been charged with a compoundable offence may be withdrawn. When it comes to non-compoundable offences, the charges against the accused cannot be withdrawn once they have been filed.
  • Affected parties: In the case of a compoundable offence, it only affects a single individual. At the same time, the non-compoundable offence impacts both the individual and society as a whole.
  • Compoundability: In the case of a compoundable offence, a settlement can be reached with or without the permission of the Court. While the non-compoundable offence cannot be compounded, it can only be quashed.
  • Filing of the case: In a compoundable offence, cases are typically filed by a private individual. In the case of a non-compoundable offence, the state is the one that files the case.

Compounding in Non-Compoundable Offences

The compoundability of a criminal offence appears to be a little absurd because it is not an act that can be compensated commercially or monetarily. It is the suffering inflicted on the victim's mind or body rather than merely monetary loss. Generally, the issue of compromise arises when the victim's loss is compensable.

A fundamental principle of criminal law is that thousands of criminals may escape punishment, but no innocent person shall be imprisoned. For this reason, the rigors of criminal law are relaxed, allowing for the compoundability of certain offences. In these cases, the criminality of the wrongdoer is minor or nonexistent.

Sections 320(1) and (2) of the Criminal Procedure Code cover these offences. Certain offences can be compounded without the permission of the Court. In contrast, others can only be compounded with the permission of the Court. Non-compoundable offences, on the other hand, cannot be compounded even with the Court's permission.

However, in Mahesh Chand v. State of Rajasthan, 1990 SCC(Cri)159, the Supreme Court invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution to render complete justice to the parties concerned by allowing it to do the compounding of non-compoundable offences.Although, in the subsequent case Ram Lal v. State of J&K (1999), this decision was regarded as per curium because it was felt that due regard for the legal provision was not given and that provision 320(9) was completely ignored.

In B.S. Joshi v. the State of Haryana, (2003) 4 SCC675, the Supreme Court was asked whether the High Courts have any power to quash proceedings involving non-compoundable offences under Section 482 of the Code in order to provide justice to the parties. The Court has responded affirmatively. It stated that the High Courts have the authority to use their inherent jurisdiction to intervene in matters involving non-compoundable offences to serve the ends of justice. The same judgment was carried and applied by the larger bench in Gian Singh v. State of Punjab (2012), putting an end to the debate over the power of High Courts to quash proceedings in cases involving non-compoundable offences. It was observed in this case that offences arising out of family disputes or matrimony relating to dowry, etc., where the wrong is essentially private in nature and the parties had settled their differences, the High Court may quash the proceeding under Section 482 of the Code as this is a power that is distinct from a criminal court's ability to compound offences.

While focusing on the subtle differences between the provisions embodied in Sections 320 and 482 of the CrPc, it is worth noting that the powers under S.320 can be exercised immediately in all cases that fall within the scope of compoundable offences. Because they are grilled provisions and are specifically listed under the code, no special permissions are required.

However, the HCs have inherent power under Section 482 of the CrPc. These should only be used in moderation and with caution. The object of legislation must be construed that such powers must be exercised carefully, cautiously, and judiciously whenever any provision refers to the inherent nature of power. Since inherent power implies that the courts do exercise their discretion to some extent, subject to certain limitations, this discretion should be used sparingly.

Purposive construction is to be applied to the interpretation of the said provision. It means that if the circumstances of the case are not too dangerous or too heinous and are not endangering public life or society, grilling the accused person for a more extended period in prison may result in irreparable injustice. The courts can quash the trial court proceedings and order the case to be compounded, even if it falls within the scope of the non-compoundable list.

In Rameshchandra J, Thakkar v. A. P. Jhaveri&Anr, it was decided that if an acquittal is based on the compounding of an offence and the compounding is invalid under the law, the acquittal could be overturned by the High Court using its revisionary powers. If a non-compoundable offence has been compounded in violation of the law, and the accused's acquittal is based on the same compromise, the High Court has the authority to overturn the order.

Classification of offences under section 320

  • Offence in which the Court's permission is required before compounding– Causing miscarriage, voluntarily causing grievous hurt, criminal breach of trust, bigamy, etc.
  • Offences in which the Court's permission is not required before compounding– Voluntarily causing hurt, wrongfully restraining or confining any person, fraudulent removal or concealment of property, criminal trespass, adultery, etc.

Conclusion

Hence, it can be stated that compoundable offences are those in which criminal liability is seized at the point of compromise. In contrast, non-compoundable offences are those in which compromise is not possible or criminal liability does not end even when the offence is compromised. However, the Court considers all the facts before permitting for compounding in any offence. This is a necessary action to ensure justice to all and preventing any form of injustice.

Questions

  • Under which section of the CrPC do the High Courts have inherent powers?
  • What is quashing of a proceeding under criminal law?

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