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Settlement Between Victim And Accused Not A Valid Ground To Quash FIR/Charge - Sheet When Offences Are Serious And Against Society

Supreme Court of India once again in a latest and laudable Judgment titled Arun Singh & Others Vs. State of U.P. & Anr., in Criminal Appeal No. 250 of 2020 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (CRL) No. 5224 of 2017 reiterated that settlement between victim and the accused cannot be a valid ground to quash the First Information Report or the charge-sheet when the offences alleged are against society and not private in nature.

If settlement is allowed in such serious cases as that of Section 493 of Indian Panel Code, 1860 and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act then it will only serve to further encourage and abet the crime which cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances.

Supreme Court while quashing the charge-sheet insofar as Section 493 of Indian Panel Code, 1860 and dismissing the charge-sheet under Section 3 read with Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, held as under:

30. In view of the above facts and discussions, we are of the considered view that insofar as offence under Section 493 I.P.C. is concerned, since F.I.R. does not disclose the commission of any offence under the said Section and thus continuance of the criminal prosecution under said section would amount to abuse of process of the Court and the order of the High Court to that extent is liable to be set aside.

However, insofar as offence against the appellants under Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is concerned, since the allegations disclose the commission of cognizable offence in the F.I.R., it is not a fit case to exercise power under Section 482 Cr. P. C and to quash criminal proceedings against the appellants for the said offence.

As a result of our aforesaid discussion, the charge sheet insofar as Section 493 I.P.C is concerned stands quashed. However, in respect of charge sheet under Section 3 read with Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, the Appeal stands dismissed.

Shorn of unnecessary details the brief facts which led to the filing of this appeal can be summarised as under:

Respondent No. 2 lodged First Information Report with Police Station Izzat Nagar, District Bareilly, under Section 493 Indian Panel Code, 1860 read with Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act against the Appellants herein which was registered as case Crime No. 431 of 2014.

The allegations made in the First Information Report were that Respondent No. 2 approached Appellants with the proposal of marriage of his daughter Jyoti with Appellant No. 1. On 30th June, 2013 the Appellants visited the house of Respondent No. 2 and after meeting his daughter the proposal was finalised. On 21.07.2013, Ring Ceremony was performed and date of marriage was scheduled for 19.11.2013.

Thereafter, Appellant No. 2 started visiting the house of Complainant / Respondent No. 2 frequently and misleading his daughter Jyoti that now since the marriage is finalised and only ceremony of ‘feras’ remains to be performed took her for outings on various occasions.

On 16.08.2013 Appellant No. 2 induced Jyoti to his room and established physical relationship with her. However, subsequently thereto the Appellant started making demand of dowry of Rs. 5 Lakh. A Complaint in this regard was made before Mahila Thana but no action was taken. On coming to know that marriage of Appellant No. 2 was settled with some other girl for a handsome amount of dowry, the First Information Report was lodged.

The matter was investigated by the concerned Police Station and a charge- sheet was filed against the Appellants, which was challenged before the High Court by way of Petition under Section 482 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

The case set up by the Appellants before the High Court was that behaviour of the Complainant and his family members changed after the date of marriage was fixed and they refused to share the expenses of marriage, which was settled between the parties to be shared equally.

Further, a demand of Rs. 10 Lakhs was made from the Appellants with a threat to implicate them in a false case in case the demand was not fulfilled. It was further pleaded that Appellant No. 2 made an application under Section 156 (3) Cr. P. C before the ACJM against the Complainant and his other family members. During the pendency of proceedings under Section 156 (3) Cr. P. C a Complaint was made by Respondent No. 2 in the Women Police Station.

Incharge Inspector of Police Station summoned both the parties where the dispute between them was compromised. In view of the compromise arrived, the Appellants did not press the application under Section 156 (3) Cr. P. C. However, the Complainant - Respondent No. 2 filed the First Information Report after about 10 months of the compromise.

The High Court finding that there was no justification for quashing the charge-sheet while dismissing the petition directed the accused Appellants to surrender before the Court concerned within 30 days from the date of order and in case they do so within the stipulated period and apply for bail the same was liable to be considered and decided in view of law laid down by full bench of High Court in case of [Amrawati & Anr. Vs State of Utter Pardesh, 2004 (57) ALR 290] & affirmed by Supreme Court in [Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh Vs State of Utter Pardesh, 2009 (3) ADJ 322 (SC)].
Supreme Court while holding the High Court not to be unjustified in refusing to quash the charge sheet on the ground of compromise between the parties, observed as under:
15. Bearing in mind the above principles which have been laid down, we are of the view that offences for which the appellants have been charged are infact offences against society and not private in nature.

Such offences have serious impact upon society and continuance of trial of such cases is founded on the overridding effect of public interests in punishing persons for such serious offences. It is neither an offence arising out of commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership or such similar transactions or has any element of civil dispute thus it stands on a distinct footing. In such cases, settlement even if arrived at between the complainant and the accused, the same cannot constitute a valid ground to quash the F.I.R. or the charge sheet.

Although the offence under Section 493 of Indian Panel Code, 1860 is non-compoundable in question and the offence under Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is also non-compoundable, in view of Section 8 (2) of the said Act, which provides that every offence under this Act, shall be non-bailable and non-compoundable, the Supreme Court made reference to the observations of Three Judge Bench of Supreme Court in [Gian Singh Versus State of Punjab, (2012) 10 SCC 303] to quash the proceedings in such offences by the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P. C, which reads as follows:
Quashing of offences or criminal proceedings on the ground of settlement between an offender and victim is not the same thing as compounding of the offence. They are different and not interchangeable. Strictly speaking the power of compounding of offence given to a Court under Section 320 is materially different from the quashing of criminal proceedings by the High Court in exercise of the inherent jurisdiction.

In compounding of offence, power of a criminal court is circumscribed by the provisions contained in Section 320 and the Court is guided solely and squarely thereby while, on the other hand, the formation of opinion by the High Court for quashing a criminal offence or criminal proceedings or criminal complaint is guided by the material on record as to whether the ends of justice would justify such exercise of power although the ultimately consequence may be acquittal or dismissal of indictment.

B. S. Joshi, Nikhil Merchant, Manoj Sharma and Shiji to illustrate the principle that High Court may quash the criminal proceedings or F.I.R. or complaint in exercise of its inherent power under Section 482 of the Code and Section 320 does not limit or effect the powers of the High Court under Section 482.

Can it be said that by quashing criminal proceedings in B.S. Joshi, Nikhil Merchant, Manoj Sharma and Shiji this Court has compounded the non-compoundable offences indirectly? We do not think so. There does exists the distinction between compounding of an offence under Section 320 and quashing of a criminal case by a High Court in exercise of inherent power under Section 482. The two powers are distinct and different although the ultimate consequence may be the same viz. acquittal of the accused or dismissal of the indictment.

Another Three Judge Bench of Supreme Court in [Parbatbhai Aahir & Others Versus State of Gujarat & Others, (2017) 9 SCC 641] after analysing the precedents on, the above issue has summarised the broad principles in Paragraph 15 of the reports as under:

15. The broad principles which emerge from the precedents on the subject, may be summarised in the following propositions:

  1. Section 482 preserves 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;
     
  2. 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 of Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The Power to quash Under Section 482 is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable.
     
  3. In forming an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction Under Section 482, the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power;
     
  4. While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised:
    (i) to secure the ends of justice or
    (ii) to prevent an abuse of the process of any court;
     
  5. 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;
     
  6. In the exercise of the power Under Section 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;
     
  7. 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;
     
  8. 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;
     
  9. In such a case, the High Court may quash the criminal proceeding if in view of the compromise between the disputants, the possibility of a conviction is remote and the continuation of a criminal proceeding would cause oppression and prejudice; and
     
  10. There is yet an exception to the principle set out in propositions (viii) and (ix) 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 misdemeanour. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance.
 
The next issue which arose for consideration before the Supreme Court was as to Whether the allegations made in the First Information Report constitute commission of an offence ?
Since the Appellants had been charged with Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 3 read with Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act.

Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, thus, reads as under:

Cohabitation caused by a man deceitfully inducing a belief of lawful marriage. Every man who by deceit causes any woman who is not lawfully married to him to believe that she is lawfully married to him and to cohabit or have sexual intercourse with him in that belief, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

A plain reading of the Section goes to show that in order to constitute an offence under this Section, it has to be demonstrated that a man has deceitfully caused any woman, who is not lawfully married to him, to believe that she is lawfully married wife and, thereby, co-habit with him. In other words, the accused must induce a woman, not lawfully married to him, to believe that she is married to him and as a result of such mis-representation, woman should believe that she was lawfully married to the man and thus there should be co-habitation or sexual intercourse.

A three-Judge Bench of this Court in the case of [Ram Chandra Bhagat Vs. State of Jharkhand, 7 (2013) 1 SCC 562] after analysing the provisions of Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, has observed as under:
Upon perusal of Section 493 IPC, to establish that a person has committed an offence under the said section, it must be established that a person had deceitfully induced a belief to a woman, who is not lawfully married to him, that she is a lawfully married wife of that person and thereupon she should cohabit or should have had sexual intercourse with that person.

Looking at the afore-stated section, it is clear that the accused must induce a woman, who is not lawfully married to him, to believe that he is married to her and as a result of the afore-stated representation, the woman should believe that she was lawfully married to him and there should be cohabitation or sexual intercourse as a result of the deception.

If a woman is induced to change her status from that of an unmarried to that of a married woman with all the duties and obligations pertaining to the changed relationship and that result is accomplished by deceit, such woman within the law can be said to have been deceived and the offence under Section 493 IPC is brought home.

Inducement by a person deceitfully to a woman to change her status from unmarried woman to a lawfully married woman and on that inducement making her cohabit with him in the belief that she is lawfully married to him is what constitutes an offence under Section 493. The victim woman has been induced to do that which, but for the false practice, she would not have done and has been led to change her social and domestic status.

The ingredients of Section 493 can be said to be fully satisfied when it is proved:

  1. deceit causing a false belief of existence of a lawful marriage, and
  2. cohabitation or sexual intercourse with the person causing such belief.

It is not necessary to establish the factum of marriage according to personal law but the proof of inducement by a man deceitfully to a woman to change her status from that of an unmarried to that of a lawfully married woman and then make that woman cohabit with him establishes an offence under Section 493 IPC.

The essence of an offence under Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 is, therefore, practice of deception by a man on a woman as a consequence of which the woman is led to believe that she is lawfully married to him although she is not and then make her cohabit with him.

Deceit can be said to be a false statement of fact made by a person knowingly and recklessly with the intent that it shall be acted upon by another who on believing the same after having acted thereupon suffers an injury. It is an attempt to deceive and includes such declaration and statement that misleads others or causes him to believe which otherwise is false and incorrect.

In other words, to constitute an offence under Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the allegations in the First Information Report must demonstrate that appellant had practiced deception on the daughter of the complainant causing a false belief of existence of lawful marriage and which led her to cohabit with him.

Since the ingredients to constitute an offence under Section 493 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 did not cull out any inducement of belief in the victim that she was lawfully married to the Appellant No.1 and on account of this deceitful mis-statement, the victim co-habited with the accused, the High Court having failed to advert itself to the aforesaid aspects discussed hereinabove and to that extent, the Judgment was held not liable to be sustained by Supreme Court as under:
23. From a perusal of the F.I.R., we do not find that allegations made therein can be said to constitute any offence under Section 493 IPC. There are no allegation of any inducement or any deceit to make the victim believe that she was lawfully married to the appellant, which mislead her to have sexual intercourse with the accused appellant no.1.

Only allegations in the First Information Report in this regard are that after the marriage was settled, the appellant no.1 started visiting the house of the complainant frequently and would mislead and instigate his daughter that relation is final and only Feras remains to be performed. On the fateful day, i.e., 16.08.2013, the appellant no.1 took leave and enticed and instigated his daughter took her to his room and promising that she is being his wife established physical relations.

In the final analysis, the Supreme Court concluded that settlement between victim and the accused cannot be a valid ground to quash the FIR or the charge sheet when the offences alleged are against society and not private in nature. Such offences have serious impact upon society and continuance of trial of such cases is founded on the overriding effect of public interests in punishing persons for such serious offences.

Written By: Damini Singh Chauhan - Semester 9th, The Law School, University of Jammu.
Email; [email protected] 

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