The Supreme Court of India on 29 September 2021 opined that the High Courts of India can annul criminal proceedings in exercise of its inherent power given to it under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal proceedings even if the offences are non-compoundable in nature and compromise is reached after conviction but the High court has to take into account the nature of the offence and how much heinous it is and other factors as the handing out punishment is not the sole purpose of delivering justice.
The SC held that the criminal proceedings which involve non-heinous offences or where offences are of private nature can be quashed irrespective of the fact that trial had already been completed or appeal stand dismissed against conviction. The court held that where a compromise has been struck post-conviction the high court should exercise such discretion with rectitude and they should keep in mind the circumstances around the incident.
The bench of the Supreme Court which opined such consisted of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justice Surya Kant and the case which they were hearing was Ramgopal Vs State of Madhya Pradesh.
In this case of Ramgopal Vs State of Madhya Pradesh, the accused were convicted under section 320 of the Indian Penal Code, they then filed a revision petition seeking compounding of offence as there was a compromise post-conviction. The HC rejected the revision petition and opined that the offences which they were accused of are non-compoundable in nature. Then the parties urged the apex court of India to use its power under Article 142 to do complete justice to them.
The apex court observed that the HC can evaluate the consequential effects of an offence beyond the individual and can adopt a pragmatic approach that can ensure that even if an offence goes unpunished its decision should not hinder the administration of justice.
The Supreme Court laid down some points which should be kept in mind while carefully exercising the power of HC under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code and of the Supreme Court of India under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.
Things to be kept in mind while carefully exercising the power:
- Nature of the crime and how it will affect the conscious of the society;
- How serious the injury is;
- Is the compromise between accused and victim voluntary in nature without any type of coercion;
- The behavior and conduct of accused prior and after the offence was committed.