HC cannot compound Non-compoundable offences

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Mumbai, Mar 12 (UNI) Non-compoundable offences could not be compounded by the High Court, a full bench of the Bombay High Court ruled today.

The full bench, however, reiterated that the inherent powers of the high court to quash and set aside any FIR or any criminal proceeding were neither curtailed nor limited by any section of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).

But the bench cautioned the Judges, saying this power should be exercised sparingly and with caution.

Section 320 of the CrPC provides three schedules, enumerating lists of offences, which could be compounded by a complainant or with permission of courts. However, relying on a judgement of the Supreme Court, a division bench of the high court had, in 2006, gone beyond the scope of legal provisions and compounded an offence under section 498A--harassment of a married woman for dowry--which was not enumerated in any shedules of section 320.

The division bench had quashed criminal proceedings against a divorcee from Pune. Thereafter, taking basis of the division bench's judgement, a person, accused of bigamy, had moved the high court to compound the offence registered against him under section 495 of Indian Penal Code.

However, the single judge refused to accept principles laid down by the division bench and referred the matter for consideration of full bench of the high court in July last year.

Accordingly, a full bench comprising Chief Justice Swatanter Kumar, Justice J P Devdhar and Justice D Y Chandrachud recorded that the Apex Court had examined ambit of inherent powers of the High Court under section 482 of CrPC, which enables the court to quash any FIR or any criminal proceedings, obviously depending upon set of facts and peculiar situation of the case, and ruled that no court could compound an offence not listed in schedules of section 320 of the CrPC.

The full bench also ruled that the power to compound could be exercised at a trial stage or even at the appellate stage, but, obviously, subject to satisfaction of conditions postulated by the legislature under section 320 of CrPC.

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