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Quashing of FIR/Criminal Proceedings Under Section 482 of CrPC

Black's law dictionary defines quash as to overthrow / to abate / to vacate / to annul / to make void. In simplest terms, quashing of criminal proceedings would mean ceasing the legal machinery which had been set in motion. This is usually done after a First Information Report (hereinafter referred to as FIR) is filed, before the chargesheet-filing stage. Still, proceedings can be revoked even after the chargesheet has been filed but that is usually discouraged by the Supreme Court.

2) Legal provisions in India for quashing of criminal proceedings
Code of Criminal Procedure (hereinafter referred to as Code/CrPC), 1973 has laid out the provisions for quashing of criminal proceedings.
Section 482 o CrPC says,

"Saving of inherent powers of High Court Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice."

The decisions of High Courts in this regard, ought to be guided by following twin objectives, as laid down in Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab (2014) 6 SCC 466:
i) Prevent abuse of the process of court.
ii) Secure the ends of justice.

3) Rules governing the petitions which pray for quashing of criminal proceedings

Section 482 of CrPC, which deals with the power of court to quash criminal proceedings, hasn’t given the details of that what exactly constitutes the inherent power of court. In that sense, the Code is very vague as it doesn’t lay out the grounds on which the foundations of the inherent power of court lay.

Furthermore, there has been consistent inconsistency in the judgments of the Supreme Court of India with regard to the application of Section 482 of CrPC. Consequently, the application of section 482 of CrPC is a very agitated issue in litigation along with being a strongly debated concept in the legal academic circles.

Nevertheless, there are some cases which have got wide acceptance in the legal fraternity and hence, are used as the minor guiding principles (landmark cases being the major ones) governing the cases of quashing of criminal proceedings.

Some of these cases are:
Prashant Bharti v. State of NCT of Delhi (2013) 9 SCC 293:
In order to determine the veracity of a prayer for quashing the criminal proceedings raised by an accused under Section 482 of the CrPC, the following questions have to be analyzed by the High Court:
i) Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sound, reasonable, and indubitable, i.e., the material is of sterling and impeccable quality?

ii) Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sufficient to reject and overrule the factual assertions contained in the complaint, i.e., the material is such, as would persuade a reasonable person to dismiss and condemn the factual basis of the accusations as false?

iii) Whether the material relied upon by the accused, has not been refuted by the prosecution / complainant; and / or the material is such, that it cannot be justifiably refuted by the prosecution / complainant?

iv) Whether proceeding with the trial would result in an abuse of process of the court and hence, would not serve the ends of justice?
If the answer to all the questions is in affirmative, the Court should quash the proceedings by exercising its power under Section 482 of CrPC.
Parbatbhai Ahir v. State of Gujarat (4 Oct, 2017):
In this case, the Supreme Court referred to various precedents and summarised the following principles which ought to govern the power of High Court under Section 482 of CrPC, "
i) Section 482preserves 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.

ii) 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 ofSection 320of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The power to quash under Section 482 is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable.

iii) In forming an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction underSection 482, the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power.

iv) While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised;
a) To secure the ends of justice.
b) To prevent an abuse of the process of any court.

v) 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.

vi) In the exercise of the power under ction 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.

vii) 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.

viii) 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.

ix) In such a case, the High Court may quash the criminal proceeding if in view of the compromise between the disputants, the possibility of aconviction is remote and the continuation of a criminal proceeding would cause oppression and prejudice; and.

x) There is yet an exception to the principle set out in propositions (viii) and 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."

4) Quashing of criminal proceedings in matrimonial cases
Section 498 - A was brought in by the Indian legislature to help the hapless women who were worst victims of their husbands’ ire. But, of late, there have been innumerable instances of misuse of Section 498 - A. The situation has become so severe that there are dedicated non-government organizations (NGOs) which solely focus on advocating the repeal of Section 498. Also, there have been numerous instances in India, where the courts have criticised the provisions of Section 498 – A, decried its use, and prodded the legislature to have a look at the issue. For instance, the Supreme Court of India observed in the case ofSushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India (19 July, 2005), "…The object of the provision is prevention of the dowry menace. But as has been rightly contended by the petitioner many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have filed the cases with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignomy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery..."
The Supreme Court of India has, many a times, held that the proceedings being pursued under Section 498 - A of IPC ought to be quashed if the chances of conviction are very bleak or the case has been filed with ulterior motives (in most cases, the ulterior motive is to settle personal scores).

In B S Joshi v. State of Haryana 2003 (4) SCC 675, the Supreme Court justified the exercise of powers under Section 482 CrPC to quash the proceedings in matrimonial cases to secure the ends of justice in view of the special facts and circumstances of the case even where the offences alleged are non-compoundable. This very judgment was used by the Delhi High Court to quash criminal proceedings which had been initiated under Section 498 - A of the Indian Penal Code (hereinafter referred to as IPC), in the case of Girish Pandey v. State (20 Oct, 2016).

Furthermore, it has been held in the case of Geeta Mehrotra v. State of Uttar Pradesh (17 Oct, 2012)by the Supreme Court of India that making general allegations against husband without any conclusive proof is ground enough to quash criminal proceedings instituted under Section 498- A of IPC.

5) Landmark cases related to abatement of criminal proceedings
Despite all the contradictions that appear in the various judgments of the supreme Court with respect to quashing of criminal proceedings, there are following two cases which are considered string authorities on the subject:
In the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal 1992 AIR 604, the Supreme Court had laid down following seven categories of cases in which the court can quash criminal proceedings:
i. Where the allegations made in the FIR, even if taken at face value and accepted in their entirety, do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
ii. Where the allegations in the FIR and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1)of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview ofSection 155(2) of the Code.
iii. Where the allegations made in the FIR and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
iv. Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer, unless a Magistrate has issued an order for the same, as contemplated under Section 155(2)of the Code.
v. Where the allegations made in the FIR are absurd to the extent that no prudent man can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
vi. Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions f the Code or the concerned Act, under which a criminal proceeding is instituted, with regard to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and / or where there is a specific provision inthe Codeor the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.

vii. Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide intention and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and / or personal grudge.

In the case of R P Kapur v. State of Punjab 1960 AIR 862, the Supreme Court of India held that criminal proceedings against a person can be quashed if the case being dealt with belongs to any one of the following three classes of cases:
i) Where there is a legal bar against institution or continuance of the criminal proceedings.
ii) Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute an offence, even if taken at face value and in their entirety.
iii) Where the allegations made constitute an offence, but there is no evidence which can prove them.

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