Top court sets aside the Gujarat state supreme court orders, including the one which had quashed an FIR lodged in March 2020 for alleged offence of abetment of suicide
The Supreme Court on Friday said that heinous crimes, which don't seem to be private in nature and have a heavy impact on society, can't be quashed supported a compromise between the offender and therefore the complainant or the victim.
The apex court said orders quashing FIRs or complaints referring to the grave and high offences only supported an agreement with the complainant, would set a "dangerous precedent" where complaints would be lodged for oblique reasons to extract money from the accused.
"Furthermore, financially strong offenders would go scot-free, even in cases of grave and heavy offences like murder, rape, bride-burning, etc. by buying off informants/complainants and settling with them, a bench of Justices Indira Banerjee and V Ramasubramanian said in its judgement.
The top court put aside the Gujarat court orders, including the one which had quashed an FIR lodged in March 2020 for the alleged offence of abetment of suicide.
While pertaining to previous judgements of the apex court, the bench said before exercising its power under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) to quash an FIR, criminal complaint, or criminal proceedings, the supreme court should be circumspect and have due respect to the character and gravity of the offence.
"Heinous or serious crimes, which don't seem to be private in nature and have a significant impact on society can not be quashed on the premise of a compromise between the offender and also the complainant and/or the victim," it said.
The apex court observed that crimes like murder, rape, burglary, dacoity, and even abetment to kill are neither private nor civil and such crimes are against society.
"In no circumstances can prosecution be quashed on compromise, when the offence is serious and grave and falls within the ambit of crime against society," it said.
The bench said orders quashing FIRs or complaints referring to the grave and heavy offences only supported an agreement with the complainant would render otiose the provisions, like sections 306, 498-A, 304-B of the Indian legal code (IPC), which were incorporated as a deterrent with a selected social purpose.
While section 306 of the IPC deals with the abetment of suicide, section 498-A relates to the offence of a husband or relative of a husband of a lady subjecting her to cruelty. Section 304-B of the IPC deals with the offence of dowry death.
The apex court noted that the sole question within the appeal before it's whether applications filed by the accused under section 482 of CrPC could are allowed and an FIR under section 306 of the IPC could are quashed supported a settlement between the complainant and therefore the accused named within the FIR.
The bench observed that an FIR under section 306 of the IPC cannot even be quashed supported any financial settlement with the informant, surviving spouse, parents, children, guardians, caregivers, or anyone else.
It noted that the supreme court had erred in declining the prayer of the appellant for recalling its order, which was passed without hearing the wife of the deceased only because the initial informant or complainant, a cousin brother, and an employee of the deceased had been heard.
"Hearing a cousin-cum-employee of the deceased cannot and doesn't dispense with the necessity to provide the wife of the deceased a hearing," it said.
The bench noted that the wife of the deceased would have greater interest than cousins and employees in prosecuting accused persons charged with the offence of abetting the suicide of her husband.
It said the inherent power of the court under section 482 of the CrPC to interfere with criminal proceedings is wide and such power needs to be exercised with circumspection, in exceptional cases.
The top court noted that in exceptional cases, the court might exercise its inherent powers under section 482 of the CrPC to quash criminal proceedings to forestall abuse of the method of the court.
It said offence under section 306 of the IPC of abetment to kill could be a grave and non-compoundable offence.
It said in criminal jurisprudence, the position of the complainant is barely that of the informant and once an FIR or criminal complaint is lodged and a criminal case is started by the State, it becomes a matter between the state and also the accused.
"The State encompasses a duty to make sure that law and order are maintained in society. it's for the state to prosecute offenders," the bench said.
"In our considered opinion, the criminal proceeding can't be nipped within the bud by the exercise of jurisdiction under section 482 of the CrPC only because there's a settlement, during this case, a monetary settlement, between the accused and therefore the complainant and other relatives of the deceased to the exclusion of the hapless widow of the deceased," it said.