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 an 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 offences.
On 4th October 2017 The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Parbatbhai Aahir & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 1723 of 2017) set out guidelines to be followed by courts in exercise of its inherent power under S 482 of Crpc . The Hon’ble Supreme Court summarized the propositions after careful observations of various precedents on this subject.
- 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 17 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 Hon’ble Supreme Court has set out 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 process of court and to prevent gross miscarriage of justice.
By Tapan Choudhury – Advocate-On-Record, Supreme Court of India