The Supreme Court in a case of abetment of suicide (Section 306 IPC) has held that heinous crimes which have an impact on society cannot be quashed on the basis of a compromise between the offender and complainant and/or the victim.

The Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice V. Ramasubramanian in this context, observed –

"Heinous or serious crimes, which are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society cannot be quashed on the basis of a compromise between the offender and the complainant and/or the victim. Crimes like murder, rape, burglary, dacoity and even abetment to commit suicide are neither private nor civil in nature. Such crimes are against the society. In no circumstances can prosecution be quashed on compromise, when the offence is serious and grave and falls within the ambit of crime against society."

The Court also held that orders quashing FIRs and/or complaints relating to grave and serious offences only on basis of agreement with the complainant, would set a dangerous precedent where complaints would be lodged for oblique reasons with a view to extract money from the accused.

"Furthermore, financially strong offenders would go scot free, even in cases of grave and serious offences such as murder, rape, brideburning, etc. by buying off informants/complainants and settling with them. This would render otiose provisions such as Sections 306, 498- A, 304-B etc. incorporated in the IPC as a deterrent, with a specific social purpose," the Bench held.

In this case, the Appellant was the wife of the deceased who was stated to have committed suicide by consuming poison in his office. The cousin of the deceased lodged an FIR against 12 accused persons. Applications were filed in the Gujarat High Court under Section 482 CrPC alleging that they had committed offence under Section 306 IPC of abetting the commission of suicide by the deceased.

In the FIR it was alleged that the deceased had been making phone calls to the accused persons calling upon them to return his money, but they did not do so. The accused had cheated the deceased of Rs.2,35,73,200/-. The deceased was in an acute financial crunch and, therefore, constrained to take his own life.

The Gujarat High Court had allowed the applications of the accused filed under Section 482 CrPC and quashed the FIR registered against them.

The Apex Court noted that the FIR was quashed in view of a settlement between the accused named in the FIR and the complainant. It was also noted that the parties had amicably resolved their disputes.

Further, the Bench also observed that High Court did not address to itself, the question of whether it had jurisdiction to quash a criminal complaint under Section 306 of the IPC, which is a grave non-compoundable offence, entailing imprisonment of ten years, on the basis of a settlement between the parties.

It was also held that the High Court erred in declining the prayer of the Appellant for recalling its order that was passed without hearing the wife of the deceased only because the original complainant, a cousin brother and an employee of the deceased had been heard.

The Court noted that the only question in this appeal is whether the Criminal Miscellaneous Applications filed by the accused under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. could have been allowed and an FIR under Section 306 of the IPC for abetment to commit suicide, entailing punishment of imprisonment of ten years, could have been quashed on the basis of a settlement between the complainant and the accused named in the FIR.

The Court held that the answer to the aforesaid question cannot, but be in the negative.

The Court further observed, "Offence under Section 306 of the IPC of abetment to commit suicide is a grave, non-compoundable offence. Of course, the inherent power of the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. is wide and can even be exercised to quash criminal proceedings relating to non-compoundable offences, to secure the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of Court. Where the victim and offender have compromised disputes essentially civil and personal in nature, the High Court can exercise its power under Section 482 of the CrPC to quash the criminal proceedings."

The Court held in what cases power to quash an FIR or a criminal complaint or criminal proceedings upon compromise can be exercised, would depend on the facts and circumstances of the case.

"However, before exercising its power under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. to quash an FIR, criminal complaint and/or criminal proceedings, the High Court, as observed above, has to be circumspect and have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offence," the Bench opined.

"In Criminal Jurisprudence, the position of the complainant is only that of the informant. Once an FIR and/or criminal complaint is lodged and a criminal case is started by the State, it becomes a matter between the State and the accused. The State has a duty to ensure that law and order is maintained in society. It is for the state to prosecute offenders. In case of grave and serious non compoundable offences which impact society, the informant and/or complainant only has the right of hearing, to the extent of ensuring that justice is done by conviction and punishment of the offender. An informant has no right in law to withdraw the complaint of a non compoundable offence of a grave, serious and/or heinous nature, which impacts society," the Court held.

The Court additionally observed that the Criminal Proceeding cannot be nipped in the bud by exercising jurisdiction under Section 482 CrPC only because there is a settlement, in this case, a monetary settlement, between the accused and the complainant and other relatives of the deceased to the exclusion of the hapless widow of the deceased.

Further, the Bench added that an FIR under Section 306 IPC cannot even be quashed on the basis of any financial settlement with the informant, surviving spouse, parents, children, guardians, care-givers or anyone else.

In the light of these observations, the Court allowed the appeals and set aside the impugned orders of the High Court.

Cause Title - Daxaben v. The State of Gujarat & Ors.

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