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NARINDER SINGH & ORS v. STATE OF PUNJAB & ANR [2014] INSC 223 (27 March 2014)

Facts :- It may be stated at the outset that the petitioners herein, who are three in number, have been charged under various provisions of the IPC including for committing offence punishable under Section 307, IPC i.e. attempt to commit murder. FIR No.121/14.7.2010 was registered. In the aforesaid FIR, the allegations against the petitioners are that on 9.7.2010 at 7.00 A.M. while respondent No.2 was going on his motorcycle to bring diesel from village Lapoke, Jasbir Singh, Narinder Singh both sons of Baldev Singh and Baldev Singh son of Lakha Singh attacked him and injured him. Respondent No.2 was admitted in Shri Guru Nanak Dev Hospital, Amritsar. After examination the doctor found four injuries on his person. Injury No.1 to 3 are with sharp edged weapons and injury No.4 is simple. From the statement of injured and MLR’s report, an FIR under sections 323/324/34 IPC was registered. After X-ray report relating to injury No.3, section 307 IPC was added in the FIR After the completion of investigation, challan has been presented in the Court against the petitioners and charges have also been framed. Now the case is pending before the Ld.Trial Court, Amritsar, for evidence.

During the pendency of trial proceedings, the matter has been compromised between the petitioners as well as the private respondent with the intervention of the Panchayat on 12.07.2013. It is clear from the above that three years after the incident, the parties compromised the matter with intervention of the Panchayat of the village.
Judgment :- The High Court refused to accept the compromise entered into between the parties, the effect whereof would be that the petitioners would face trial in the said FIR. We must immediately state that the offence under Section 307 is not compoundable in terms of Section 320(9) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and compounding of the offence in the present case is out of question.

While confirming the conviction of the appellants for the offences punishable under Section 307 read with Section 34, Section 332 read with Section 34 and Section 353 read with Section 34, the substantive sentence awarded to them by the High Court is reduced to the period already undergone. We find that there are cases where the power of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code to quash the proceedings in those offences which are uncompoundable has been recognised.

When the parties reach settlement in respect of the offences enumerated in Section 320(2) of the Code, compounding is permissible but it requires the approval of the Court. The power of compounding of offences given to a court under Section 320 is materially different from the quashing of criminal proceedings by the High Court in exercise of its inherent jurisdiction.

B.S Joshi, Nikhil Merchant6, Manoj Sharma7 and Shiji8 do illustrate the principle that the High Court may quash criminal proceedings or FIR or complaint in exercise of its inherent power under Section 482 of the Code and Section 320 does not limit or affect the powers of the High Court under Section 482. There does exist the distinction between compounding of an offence under Section 320 and quashing of a criminal case by the High Court in exercise of inherent power under Section 482. As to under what circumstances the criminal proceedings in a non-compoundable case be quashed when there is a settlement between the parties, the Court provided the following guidelines: (Gian Singh case, SCC pp. 340-41, para 58)

The mere settlement between the parties would not be a ground to quash the proceedings by the High Court and inasmuch as settlement of such heinous crime cannot have imprimatur of the Court.In respect of such offences which are treated against the society, it becomes the duty of the State to punish the offender.Even when there is a settlement between the offender and the victim, their will would not prevail as in such cases the matter is in public domain. The Court treated such offences including one under Section 307 IPC were of a personal nature and not offences against the society.To the extent there is no difficulty in either quashing the proceedings or compounding the offence under Section 354, of which the appellants are accused, having regard to the fact that the alleged victim of the offence has settled the matter with the alleged assailants. Though in each of the aforesaid cases the view taken by this Court may be justified on its own facts, at the same time this Court owes an explanation as to why two different approaches are adopted in various cases.

The law declared by this Court in the form of judgments becomes binding precedent for the High Courts and the subordinate courts, to follow under Article 141 of the Constitution of India.It has support from the human sense of justice as well.The provision recognises where there is a compromise between the parties, the court is to act at the said compromise and quash the proceedings.

In Shambhu Kewat, after referring to some other earlier judgments, this Court opined that commission of offence under Section 307 IPC would be crime against the society at large, and not a crime against an individual only.Only because FIR/charge-sheet incorporates the provision of Section 307 IPC would not, by itself, be a ground to reject the petition under Section 482 of the Code and refuse to accept the settlement between the parties. We are of the opinion that while taking a call as to whether compromise in such cases should be effected or not, the High Court should go by the nature of injury sustained, the portion of the bodies where the injuries were inflicted (namely, whether injuries are caused at the vital/delicate parts of the body) and the nature of weapons used, etc.If the settlement is arrived at immediately after the alleged commission of the offence when the matter is still under investigation, the High Court may be somewhat liberal in accepting the settlement and quashing the proceedings/investigation.

We have found that in certain cases, the High Courts have accepted the compromise between the parties when the matter in appeal was pending before the High Court against the conviction recorded by the trial court.No doubt, under Section 482 of the Code, the High Court has inherent power to quash the criminal proceedings even in those cases which are not compoundable, where the parties have settled the matter between themselves.
While exercising its powers, the High Court is to examine as to whether the possibility of conviction is remote and bleak and continuation of criminal cases would put the accused to great oppression and prejudice and extreme injustice would be caused to him by not quashing the criminal cases.

Charge is proved under Section 307 IPC and conviction is already recorded of a heinous crime and there is no question of sparing a convict found guilty of such a crime.It was argued that since the parties have decided to keep harmony between the parties so that in future they are able to live with peace and love and they are the residents of the same village, the High Court should have accepted the said compromise and quashed the proceedings.The chances of conviction appear to be remote.It would be unnecessary to drag these proceedings.