NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the High Courts can invoke Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to quash the criminal proceedings even after conviction in a non-compoundable offence, after considering the nature and heinousness of the crime.
A Bench of Chief Justice of India N V Ramana and Justice Surya Kant stressed that handing out punishment is not the sole form of delivering justice. It said criminal proceedings involving non-heinous offences or where the offences are predominantly of a private nature, can be annulled irrespective of the fact that trial has already concluded, or appeal stands dismissed against conviction.
"The High Court, therefore, having regard to the nature of the offence and the fact that parties have amicably settled their dispute and the victim has willingly consented to the nullification of criminal proceedings, can quash such proceedings in exercise of its inherent powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C., even if the offences are non-compoundable," the court ruled.
The High Court can evaluate the consequential effects of the offence beyond the body of an individual and thereafter adopt a pragmatic approach, to ensure that the felony, even if it goes unpunished, does not tinker with or paralyze administration of justice, the judgment said.
The judgment was delivered in two appeals, one from Madhya Pradesh High Court and the other from Karnataka High Court where the non-compoundable offences were not compounded after the parties had arrived at settlement.
The Court, however, underscored that such powers of the High Court under Section 482 of CrPC and under Article 142 of the Constitution ought to be exercised carefully in the context of quashing criminal proceedings.
‘‘It goes without saying, that the cases where compromise is struck post-conviction, the High Court ought to exercise such discretion with rectitude, keeping in view the circumstances surrounding the incident, the fashion in which the compromise has been arrived at, and with due regard to the nature and seriousness of the offence, besides the conduct of the accused, before and after the incidence," the court ruled.
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