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Quashing of FIR by High Courts and Supreme Court

Whenever a cognizable crime is committed, FIR may be lodged with the police station. However, there are instances galore where a false FIR is lodged to harass an innocent person or to seek revenge against him out of personal or political grudge. Sometimes FIR is filed even in cases which are civil in nature. It is even seen that FIR has been lodged by concocting a story having ingredients of non-bailable offences in a bailable case or where no case is made out at all. Hence, a provision under section 482 CrPC has been made to quash such false and fabricated FIRs by the High Courts.

The Supreme Court also has the power and supervisory jurisdiction to quash an FIR when the matter is related to a Special Leave Petition defined under Articles 136 and 142 of the Constitution of India.

An individual possesses the entitlement to petition the High Court to quash a First Information Report (FIR) lodged against him, as per the provisions of Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The High Court must thoroughly ascertain that no initial semblance of a case is established against the accused individual, and that the allegations against him are baseless, portraying a scenario where he has been wrongly implicated in an offense he did not commit. However, this power should be used sparingly and should always be based on cogent grounds.

The responsibility of demonstrating that the First Information Report (FIR) is entirely malicious and deficient in essential elements to establish the occurrence of a crime rests on the applicant seeking to quash the FIR.

The individual seeking to submit a request for the quashing of the First Information Report (FIR) must approach the High Court in accordance with the specified procedure outlined in Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. This involves presenting comprehensive information about the FIR, including the accusations, particulars of both the complainant and the accused, and the legal arguments. The goal is to persuade the court that the FIR has been lodged with the intent to manipulate the legal recourse accessible to individuals whose rights have been infringed upon.

The necessary paperwork for the quashing of a First Information Report (FIR) includes a certified duplicate of the FIR, a compiled collection of pertinent documents referenced in the petition seeking FIR quashing, alongside a certified duplicate of the FIR, a formal Appearance memorandum and appropriate court fees. Typically, the process of quashing an FIR can be completed in about 2 to 4 court sessions. The duration varies between 10 days to 3 months, contingent upon the specifics of the case.

Grounds for Quashing FIR

Grounds for quashing an FIR are specific legal reasons that a court may consider when evaluating whether the FIR should be nullified or the criminal proceedings associated with it should be stopped.

These grounds vary based on the jurisdiction and legal principles, but a detailed overview of some common grounds for quashing an FIR is provided below:
  1. Lack of Prima Facie Case: If upon a preliminary examination of the allegations and evidence, the court finds that there is insufficient or no credible evidence to support the charge made in FIR, it may quash the FIR.
  2. Settlement between Parties: If the parties involved in the case, including the complainant and the accused have reached a compromise or settlement and the court is satisfied that the interests of justice are not compromised, it may quash the FIR. This is often seen in cases of minor offence or private disputes where parties prefer to settle amicably.
  3. Abuse of Process of Law: If it is evident that the FIR has been lodged with malicious intent, mala fide motives, or solely to settle personal scores or harass the accused, the court may quash the FIR to prevent misuse of the legal system. The ground is invoked to protect individuals from vexatious litigation.
  4. Violation of Fundamental Rights: If the FIR or the actions of the investigating agencies violate the fundamental rights of the accused, such as the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21), the right against self-incrimination (Article 20), or the right to equality (Article 14), the court may intervene and quash the FIR.
  5. No Legal Sanction for Prosecution: If the actions alleged in the FIR do not constitute a criminal offence under the applicable law, the court may quash the FIR. This is relevant when the allegations do not fulfil the essential elements required to prove the offence.
  6. Factual Innocence: When it is proved beyond doubt that the accused is factually innocent of the alleged offence, the court may quash the FIR. This is relatively rare and usually occurs when new evidence emerges that irrefutably establishes the innocence of the accused.
  7. FIR based on Frivolous or Unsubstantiated Grounds: If the FIR is based on trivial or unsubstantiated grounds, or if the allegations are patently false and fabricated, the court may quash the FIR.
  8. Violation of Procedural Safeguards: If there are significant procedural irregularities or violations during the investigation, such as failure to follow proper search and seizure procedures, failure to inform the accused of his rights, or other breaches of due process, the court may consider quashing the FIR.
  9. Double Jeopardy: If the accused has been prosecuted or punished for the same offence previously, quashing the FIR may be considered on the grounds of double jeopardy, which protects from trying a person twice for the same offence.
  10. Prejudice to Fair Trial: If there is a reasonable apprehension that continuing with the criminal proceedings would lead to a prejudiced or unfair trial, the court may quash the FIR to uphold the principles of natural justice.
  11. Civil in Nature: Where the complaint in FIR is civil in nature.

State of Haryana and Ors v. Ch. Bhajan Lal and Ors on 21 November, 1990 (Bhajan Lal Case) in Supreme Court
When employing the exceptional authority bestowed by Article 226 of the Constitution or the inherent powers vested in Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, several instances are provided by means of illustration where such power could be applied. This application serves the purpose of preventing the misuse of court procedures or ensuring justice prevails. However, it's challenging to establish a specific, rigid, and uniformly defined set of guidelines. Instead, it encompasses an array of scenarios in which such authority should be exercised, reflecting the diverse nature of cases that warrant its application, as noted below:
  • Situations where the assertions contained in the initial information report or the complaint, even if taken at face value and wholly accepted, do not inherently establish an offence or construct a viable case against the accused.
  • Cases in which the allegations in the FIR, along with any accompanying materials, fail to disclose a recognizable offense that merits an inquiry by law enforcement under Section 156(1) of the CrPC, save under the aegis of a Magistrate's authorization as per Section 155(2) of the CrPC.
  • Scenarios wherein the uncontroverted allegations in the FIR or complaint, coupled with the collected evidence, do not showcase the perpetration of any offense or substantiate a case against the accused.
  • Instances where the allegations outlined in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offense but instead correspond to a non-cognizable offense, precluding police investigation without a Magistrate's mandate as laid down in Section 155(2) of the CrPC.
  • Cases in which the allegations posited in the FIR or complaint are so outlandish and inherently implausible that no reasonable individual could reasonably conclude that there exists adequate justification for proceeding against the accused.
  • Scenarios where explicit legal barriers are incorporated within the provisions of the Code or the pertinent Act (under which the criminal proceedings are initiated), barring the initiation and continuation of the proceedings. This might also apply when the Code or the concerned Act furnishes a viable mechanism for redressing the grievance of the aggrieved party.
  • Instances where a criminal proceeding is glaringly tainted with malice and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with a hidden agenda to exact revenge upon the accused and to malign him due to personal animosity and vendetta.

Guidelines to be Considered by High Court Under Section 482 CrPC

Over time, the Supreme Court has established a set of tests and guidelines that the High Court must consider when utilizing its authority under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973 to quash proceedings. These parameters serve as a framework for ensuring the proper exercise of this power:

Cognizant Reasoning: The High Court is required to provide clear and well-founded explanations for the exercise of its quashing power. This ensures transparency and accountability in its decision-making process.

Legal v. Factual Matters: The quashing power should not be employed to address issues that involve a combination of legal principles and factual elements. It is not suitable for resolving disputes that require both legal interpretation and factual evaluation.

Preservation of Legal Remedies: The High Court should not preclude the complainant from pursuing legal remedies unless the complaint lacks any material that can be subject to trial. In other words, the power shouldn't be used to prematurely dismiss a complaint that has plausible grounds for further examination.

Absence of Prima Facie Offence: The quashing power can be exercised when the allegations presented in the complaint do not establish a clear and initial indication of the commission of an offense or the culpability of the accused.

Non-Interference with Trial Jurisdiction: The High Court should not encroach upon the domain of the trial court by evaluating the adequacy or inadequacy of the evidence. The trial court is responsible for weighing and considering evidence during the trial proceedings.

Prevention of Abuse and Justice: One of the primary objectives of exercising the quashing power is to prevent the misuse of the judicial process and to ensure that justice is served. The power should be invoked with this dual purpose in mind.

Interference with Judicial Process: The quashing power can be invoked if it becomes apparent that the ongoing criminal proceedings themselves are being used to abuse the legal system or hinder the course of justice.

Absurd and Inherently Improbable Allegations: The power can be utilized in cases where the allegations presented are unreasonable, implausible, and inherently unlikely. This helps prevent baseless claims from burdening the legal system.

Evidence Examination Limitation: The quashing power should not be employed to decide disputes that hinge on the evaluation of evidence recorded in the case. The examination of evidence is primarily within the trial court's purview.

Case-Specific Decision: The exercise of the quashing power is contingent upon the specific details and circumstances of each individual case. The court should consider the unique aspects of the case at hand while determining whether to quash the proceedings.

These tests and parameters offer a comprehensive framework that assists the High Court in making well-informed decisions when considering the quashing of FIR under Section 482 of the CrPC.

Parbatbhai Aahir @ Parbatbhai v. The State of Gujarat on 4 October, 2017 � Supreme Court Guidelines on Quashing of FIR

In the matter of Parbatbhai Aahir @ Parbatbhai v. The State of Gujarat on October 4, 2017, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court succinctly outlined the core principles that have arisen from existing precedents concerning the quashing of First Information Reports (FIRs). The court encapsulated these principles in the ensuing propositions:

  1. Section 482 maintains the inherent authority of the High Court to avert an abuse of the legal process or to ensure justice is served. This provision doesn't confer novel powers; rather, it acknowledges and safeguards the powers naturally vested within the High Court.
  2. The exercise of the High Court's jurisdiction to quash a First Information Report, based on the premise of a settlement between the offender and the victim, should not be conflated with the jurisdiction invoked for the purpose of compounding an offense. The court's authority in compounding offences is governed by the guidelines in Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC can be invoked even for offences that are non-compoundable.
  3. In determining whether a FIR should be quashed using the authority provided by Section 482 CrPC, the High Court must assess whether the interests of justice justify the exercise of this inherent power.
  4. Although the inherent power of the High Court is extensive and all-encompassing, it should be employed either (i) to uphold justice or (ii) to prevent misuse of the judicial process.
  5. The decision on whether to quash a First Information Report on the grounds of settlement between the wrongdoer and the aggrieved party fundamentally hinges on the specific facts and circumstances of each individual case. Attempting to formulate an exhaustive set of principles would be impractical.
  6. While applying the authority under Section 482 CrPC and when dealing with an argument that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must duly consider the nature and severity of the offence. Gravely serious offences involving psychological depravity, or crimes such as murder, rape, and dacoity, are not apt for quashing, even if the victim or his family has resolved the matter. These offences are not just private in nature; they carry substantial societal consequences. The decision to proceed with the trial in such instances is based on the overriding public interest in holding individuals accountable for grave offences.
  7. In contrast to severe offences, there may be criminal cases that are predominantly intertwined with civil disputes. These cases warrant distinct treatment when it comes to the exercise of the inherent power to quash.
  8. Criminal cases involving offences that stem from commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership, or similar transactions, which essentially have a civil nature, might be considered for quashing under suitable circumstances, particularly if the parties have resolved their dispute.
  9. In such situations, the High Court has the authority to dismiss the FIR if the possibility of a conviction is highly unlikely because of the agreement between the parties. Furthermore, if letting the FIR persist would result in unfair treatment and harm to the involved parties, the High Court can intervene.
  10. There exists, however, an exception to the principles laid out in propositions (viii) and (ix) above. Economic offences that impact the financial and economic welfare of the state transcend the boundaries of a mere disagreement between private parties. The High Court could justifiably refrain from quashing cases where the offender is implicated in activities resembling financial or economic fraud or wrongdoing. The repercussions of the alleged act on the financial or economic framework are to be weighed in the decision-making process.

Different Situations
Here are some different situations to consider:
Quashing of FIR in Matrimonial Cases: In cases related to matrimonial issues, parties might impulsively file an FIR, often under sections 498A and 406 of the Indian Penal Code. Later, if they resolve their differences and decide to withdraw the FIR, the High Court can accept their petition and quash the FIR. This commonly occurs when parties amicably settle their disputes.

Quashing of FIR after Conviction: Even after a person has been convicted and a compromise has been reached between the parties, a court can still quash the FIR. However, this is applicable only for non-heinous offences. Despite the conviction, the accused can challenge the verdict by filing an appeal, preserving his right to do so.

Interim Orders in Quashing Petitions: According to a significant ruling from the Supreme Court, the High Court must use the same procedure for interim orders in quashing petitions as it does when quashing an FIR. This ensures consistency in handling cases where further investigation needs to be restrained.

Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 gives High Courts special powers. They can use these powers to ensure that orders under the law are followed, stop the misuse of court processes, and make sure justice is served. This section lets High Courts keep their inherent powers to prevent misuse of law and bring about justice. High Courts can quash FIRs if letting them continue would be a misuse of the legal process. Throughout the years, the Supreme Court has explained how High Courts should use this power in important decisions. However, the power of quashing FIR has not been conferred on the District Courts.

Written By: Md. Imran Wahab, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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