18 May 2020


Judgments

Supreme Court

Parbatbhai Aahir and Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat and Ors.

MANU/SC/1241/2017

04.10.2017

Criminal

Heinous and serious offences cannot be fittingly quashed even though the victim or victim's family and the offender have settled the dispute

In present matter, High Court of Gujarat dismissed an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC). The Appellants sought the quashing of a First Information Report registered against them for offences punishable under Sections 384, 467, 468, 471, 120-B and 506(2) of the India Penal Code, 1960 (IPC). Learned Counsel submitted that, the dispute between the complainant and the Appellants arose from a transaction for the sale of land. It was urged that the dispute is essentially of a civil nature and since parties have agreed to an amicable settlement, the proper course for the High Court would have been to quash the FIR in exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Section 482 of CrPC.

In Gian Singh v. State of Punjab, it was observed that, the power of the High Court in quashing a criminal proceeding or FIR or complaint in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction is distinct and different from the power given to a criminal court for compounding the offences under Section 320 of CrPC. Inherent power is of wide plenitude with no statutory limitation but it has to be exercised in accord with the guideline engrafted in such power viz.: (i) to secure the ends of justice, or (ii) to prevent abuse of the process of any court. Heinous and serious offences of mental depravity or offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. cannot be fittingly quashed even though the victim or victim's family and the offender have settled the dispute. Such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society. Similarly, any compromise between the victim and the offender in relation to the offences under special statutes like the Prevention of Corruption Act or the offences committed by public servants while working in that capacity, etc; cannot provide for any basis for quashing criminal proceedings involving such offences. The High Court must consider whether it would be unfair or contrary to the interest of justice to continue with the criminal proceeding or continuation of the criminal proceeding would tantamount to abuse of process of law despite settlement and compromise between the victim and the wrongdoer and whether to secure the ends of justice, it is appropriate that the criminal case is put to an end and if the answer to the above question(s) is in the affirmative, the High Court shall be well within its jurisdiction to quash the criminal proceeding.

According to broad principles which emerge from the precedents, Section 482 of CrPC preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent an abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice. The provision does not confer new powers. It only recognises and preserves powers which inhere in the High Court. The invocation of the jurisdiction of the High Court to quash a First Information Report or a criminal proceeding on the ground that a settlement has been arrived at between the offender and the victim is not the same as the invocation of jurisdiction for the purpose of compounding an offence. While compounding an offence, the power of the court is governed by the provisions of Section 320 of CrPC. The power to quash under Section 482 of CrPC, is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable. In forming an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction Under Section 482 of CrPC, the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power. While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised; (i) to secure the ends of justice or (ii) to prevent an abuse of the process of any court. The decision as to whether a complaint or First Information Report should be quashed on the ground that the offender and victim have settled the dispute, revolves ultimately on the facts and circumstances of each case and no exhaustive elaboration of principles can be formulated.

In the exercise of the power under Section 482 of CrPC and while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offence. Heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed though the victim or the family of the victim have settled the dispute. Such offences are, not private in nature but have a serious impact upon society. The decision to continue with the trial in such cases is founded on the overriding element of public interest in punishing persons for serious offences. Economic offences involving the financial and economic well-being of the state have implications which lie beyond the domain of a mere dispute between private disputants. The High Court would be justified in declining to quash where the offender is involved in an activity akin to a financial or economic fraud or misdemeanour. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance.

High Court was justified in declining to entertain the application for quashing the First Information Report in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction. The High Court has adverted to two significant circumstances. Each of them has a bearing on whether the exercise of the jurisdiction under Section 482 of CrPC to quash the FIR would subserve or secure the ends of justice or prevent an abuse of the process of the court. The first is that, the Appellants were absconding and warrants had been issued against them under Section 70 of CrPC. The second is that, the Appellants have criminal antecedents, reflected in the chart which has been extracted in the earlier part of this judgment. The High Court adverted to the modus operandi which had been followed by the Appellants in grabbing valuable parcels of land and noted that in the past as well, they were alleged to have been connected with such nefarious activities by opening bogus bank accounts. It was in this view of the matter that, the High Court observed that, in a case involving extortion, forgery and conspiracy where all the Appellants were acting as a team, it was not in the interest of society to quash the FIR on the ground that, a settlement had been arrived at with the complainant.

The present case, as the allegations in the FIR would demonstrate, is not merely one involving a private dispute over a land transaction between two contesting parties. The case involves allegations of extortion, forgery and fabrication of documents, utilization of fabricated documents to effectuate transfers of title before the registering authorities and the deprivation of the complainant of his interest in land on the basis of a fabricated power of attorney. If the allegations in the FIR are construed as they stand, it is evident that, they implicate serious offences having a bearing on a vital societal interest in securing the probity of titles to or interest in land. Such offences cannot be construed to be merely private or civil disputes but implicate the societal interest in prosecuting serious crime. In these circumstances, the High Court was eminently justified in declining to quash the FIR which had been registered under Sections 384, 467, 468, 471, 120-B and 506(2) of IPC. The Criminal Appeal dismissed.

Relevant

Gian Singh v. State of Punjab MANU/SC/0781/2012
: (2012) 10 SCC 303

Tags : FIR Quashing Grant

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