The Inherent power under Section 482 in The Code Of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (37th Chapter of the code) is wide with no statutory limitation. It preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice and therefore the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offenses.

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 offense. While compounding an offense, the power of the court is governed by the provisions of Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The power to quash under Section 482 is attractive even if the offense is non-compoundable.

In forming an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint should be quashed in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 482, the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power.

  1. While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised:

    1. to secure the ends of justice or
    1. to prevent an abuse of the process of any court;
  1. 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;

  2. In the exercise of the power under Section 482 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 offense. Heinous and serious offenses involving mental depravity or offenses such as murder, rape, and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed though the victim or the family of the victim has settled the dispute. Such offenses are, truly speaking, not private in nature but have a serious impact on 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 offenses;

  3. As distinguished from serious offenses, there may be criminal cases that have an overwhelming or predominant element of a civil dispute. They stand on a distinct footing in so far as the exercise of the inherent power to quash is concerned;

  4. Criminal cases involving offenses that arise from commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership, or similar transactions with an essentially civil flavor may in appropriate situations fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute;

  5. In such a case, the High Court may quash the criminal proceeding if in view of the compromise between the disputants, the possibility of a  conviction is remote and the continuation of a criminal proceeding would cause oppression prejudice.

  6. There is yet an exception to the principle set out in propositions (v) and (vi) above. Economic offenses involving the financial and economic well-being of the state have implications that 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 misdemeanor. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance.

The above broad principles to prevent an abuse of the process of courts or to secure the ends of justice and therefore one should approach the High Courts only with clean hands so as to enable the High Courts to prevent an abuse of the process of court and to prevent gross miscarriage of justice.

Written By Adv Rohit Yadav

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