[Parbatbhai Aahir & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 1723 of 2017)]
A full bench comprising of Hon’ble Mr. Chief Justice Dipak Misra, Hon’ble Mr. Justice AM Khanwilkar and Hon’ble Mr. Justice DY Chandrachud has laid down broad principles from various precedents in relation to Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for quashing of First Information Reports (FIRs) in the judgment passed in an appeal against a decision of the Gujarat High Court.
The Gujarat High Court vide its judgment dated November 25, 2016, had dismissed an application under Section 482 of CrPC filed by the Appellants seeking quashing of FIR registered against them on June 18, 2016 with the City ‘C’ Division Police Station, District Jamnagar, Gujarat for offences punishable under Sections 384, 467, 468, 471, 120-B and 506(2) of the Indian Penal Code.
Before, the High Court, the plea for quashing the FIR was advanced on the ground that the Appellants had amicably settled the dispute with the Complainant, who had also filed an Affidavit to that effect. On behalf of the prosecution, application for quashing was opposed on two grounds:
- The Appellants were absconding and warrants had been issued against them under Section 70 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
- The Appellants had criminal antecedants.
The High Court observed that it had been given “a fair idea” about the modus operandi adopted by the Appellants for grabbing the land, in the course of which they had opened bogus bank accounts. The High Court held that the case involves extortion, forgery and conspiracy and all the Appellants have acted as a team. Hence, in the view of the High Court, it was not in the interest of society at large to accept the settlement and quash the FIR. The High Court held that the charges are of a serious nature and the activities of the appellants render them a potential threat to society. On this ground, the prayer to quash the First Information Report was rejected by the High Court.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court after discussing various precedents on the subject summarized the following broad principles in relation to Section 482 for quashing FIRs.
- Section 482 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 the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The power to quash under Section 482 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, 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;
- to secure the ends of justice or
- 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 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, truly speaking, 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;
- As distinguished from serious offences, there may be criminal cases which 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;
- Criminal cases involving offences which arise from commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership or similar transactions with an essentially civil flavour may in appropriate situations fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute;
- 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 and prejudice; and
- There is yet an exception to the principle set out in propositions (viii) and (ix) above. 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.
The Apex Court dismissed the appeal holding that the High Court was justified in declining to entertain the Application for quashing FIR in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.
In view of the above expositions, it has been clearly held by the Apex Court that the High Court while exercising its power under Section 482 and dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the Offence. Further, it has been observed 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, truly speaking, not private in nature but have a serious impact upon society.