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Compounding of Offences (CrPC)

Updated: May 5


Compounding of Offences (CrPC)

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Scheme of Compounding of Offences

Currently, there exist 56 compoundable offences: 43 listed in the Table under subsection (1) and 13 in the Table under subsection (2) of Section 320.


The compoundable offences addressed by the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) are limited to those punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). offences falling under other statutes remain outside the purview of the CrPC. Below are the provisions of Section 320 CrPC for easy reference:


Section 320. Compounding of offences. –


(1) offences punishable under the sections of the Indian Penal Code specified in the first two columns of the table following may be compounded by the individuals mentioned in the third column of that table.


(2) offences punishable under the sections of the Indian Penal Code specified in the first two columns of the following table may, upon obtaining permission from the Court (emphasis supplied) before which any prosecution for such offence is ongoing, be compounded by the individuals mentioned in the third column of that table.


(3) When an offence is compoundable under this section, the abetment of such offence or an attempt to commit such offence, when the attempt itself constitutes an offence, or when the accused is liable under section 34 or 149 of the Indian Penal Code, may be compounded in a similar manner.


(4) (a) If the individual who would otherwise be competent to compound an offence under this section is under the age of eighteen years, or is incapacitated due to being an idiot or a lunatic, any person competent to contract on their behalf may, with the permission of the Court, compound such offence.


(b) In the event the individual who would otherwise be competent to compound an offence under this section is deceased, the legal representative, as defined in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, of such person may, with the consent of the Court, compound such offence.


(5) No composition for the offence shall be allowed when the accused has been committed for trial or when they have been convicted and an appeal is pending, without the leave of the Court to which they are committed, or, in the case of an appeal, before the Court hearing the appeal.


(6) A High Court or Court of Session, exercising its powers of revision under section 401, may permit any person to compound any offence which they are competent to compound under this section.


(7) No offence shall be compounded if the accused, by reason of a prior conviction, is liable either to enhanced punishment or to a punishment of a different kind for such offence.


(8) Compounding an offence under this section shall result in the acquittal of the accused with whom the offence has been compounded.


(9) No offence shall be compounded except as provided by this section.

 
 

Salient Features of Compounding of Offence

No offence other than those specified in the Section can be compounded. Compounding can only be carried out by the individuals specified in Column 3 of the relevant table, and such individuals must be directly aggrieved, meaning they are the victims of the crime. 


Upon compounding the offence under Section 320, the accused will be acquitted of the charged offence, and the Court loses jurisdiction to proceed with the case. Unlike some provisions of special laws, no one on behalf of the State is authorised to compound offences. 


However, the public prosecutor may withdraw from prosecution with the Court's consent, as outlined in Section 321 of the CrPC.


Sub-section (3) of Section 320 establishes that in relation to compoundable offences specified in the Section, abetment or an attempt to commit the offence is also compoundable. Similarly, composition can apply to an accused who is constructively liable for the offence under Section 34 or Section 149 of the IPC. 


In such cases, the composition of the offence can be permitted by the High Court or a Sessions Court exercising revisional powers. Sub-section (5) specifies that composition can only be allowed with the leave of the Committal Court or Appellate Court during the pendency of committal or appellate proceedings.


The Supreme Court clarified in the case of Surendra Nath Mohanty vs. State of Orissa (a three-judge bench decision) that 'For the compounding of offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code, a comprehensive scheme is provided under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. Sub-section (1) of Section 320 allows offences mentioned in the table provided thereunder to be compounded by the persons mentioned in Column 3 of the said table. 


Furthermore, sub-section (2) permits offences mentioned in the table to be compounded by the victim with the Court's permission. In contrast, sub-section (9) specifically states that "no offence shall be compounded except as provided by this Section." In light of this legislative mandate, only offences covered by tables 1 or 2 as mentioned above can be compounded, and the rest of the offences punishable under the Indian Penal Code cannot be compounded.'



Case Law: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has taken various approaches in certain cases concerning non-compoundable offences.


In one instance, where the offence under Section 326 IPC was legally non-compoundable, the Supreme Court, considering the significant passage of time and the resolution of the dispute between the parties, mitigated the sentence to three months' imprisonment, already undergone. 


Another approach adopted by the apex Court in situations where an amicable settlement was reached between the complainant and the accused regarding a non-compoundable offence was to quash the proceedings based on the specific circumstances of the case. Cases such as B.S. Joshi vs. State of Haryana, Nikhil Merchant vs. CBI, and Manoj Sharma vs. State exemplify this approach.


In the case of B.S. Joshi, the accused faced charges under Sections 498A and 406 IPC. The complainant wife filed an affidavit stating that the disputes were resolved, and both parties requested to quash the FIR.


Initially, the High Court declined to utilise its inherent power under Section 482 Cr.PC to quash the prosecution for non-compoundable offences, even with the settlement between the parties. 


However, on appeal, the Supreme Court overturned the High Court's decision, affirming that the High Court could quash criminal proceedings/FIR/complaint using its inherent powers under Section 482.


The Court emphasised that if quashing the FIR is necessary to secure justice, Section 320 wouldn't hinder the exercise of this power, although it should be decided based on the unique circumstances of each case. 


The Supreme Court justified the exercise of power under Section 482 to quash the proceedings in B.S. Joshi's case, even for non-compoundable offences, to serve the ends of justice.


This principle was later endorsed in Nikhil Merchant vs. CBI, where the accused faced charges under Section 120-B read with Sections 420, 467, 468, and 471 IPC. While the offence under Section 420 was compoundable, forgery was not. 


Despite this, the Supreme Court, considering the compromise between the parties and the decision in B.S. Joshi's case, quashed the proceedings, emphasising that technicalities should not obstruct justice when parties have reached a compromise.


The Court highlighted the relevance of the B.S. Joshi case principle, particularly in instances where certain offences, such as forgery, are not compoundable under Section 320 CrPC.

 
 




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