Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: In an appeal against the verdict of Gujarat High Court that quashed the criminal proceedings against a man accused for sexually assaulting and blackmailing his employee, the 3-judge bench of UU Lalit, Indu Malhotra and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ has set aside the verdict and held that the High Court has got carried away by the agreement/settlement arrived at, between the parties, and recorded a finding that the physical relationship of the appellant with the respondent was consensual.

The Court said,

“where sexual intercourse by the accused is proved and the question is whether it was without the consent of the woman alleged to have been raped, and such woman states in her evidence before the Court that she did not consent, the court shall presume that she did not consent.”

The Court was hearing the case where the respondent had taken inappropriate pictures of the appellant while she was asleep. He had gone to visit the appellant when she was unwell. Taking advantage of the situation, he started blackmailing her to make viral her pictures and to terminate her employment. He then started committing rape on her. When she resigned from the job, he contacted her fiancé and told him is not of good character, she had physical relationship with him and with other boys. When the fiancé refused to meet him, he sent a cover to his residence containing her nude/inappropriate pictures. The parties later entered into a written agreement wherein it was agreed that the dispute between the parties is settled and that the respondent has allegedly paid a huge amount to the appellant.

The Court noticed that whether the respondent by clicking inappropriate pictures of the appellant has blackmailed her or not, and further whether he has continued to interfere by calling appellant’s fiancé or not are the matters for investigation. It, hence, held that the High Court should not have made a roving inquiry while considering the application filed under Section 482 CrPC.

Holding that the High Court has got carried away by the agreement/settlement arrived at, between the parties, and recorded a finding that the physical relationship of the appellant with the respondent was consensual, the Court said,

“When it is the allegation of the appellant, that such document itself is obtained under threat and coercion, it is a matter to be investigated.”

[Miss XYZ v. State of Gujarat, CRIMINAL APPEAL NO.1619 OF 2019, decided on 25.10.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ and AM Khanwilkar and Dr. DY Chandrachud, JJ, explaining the principles governing the inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC, said that while the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised to secure the ends of justice or to prevent an abuse of the process of any court.

The Court summarised the elaborate principles laid down by the Supreme Court in various cases. Below is the summary of the principles:

  • 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. Also, the power to quash under Section 482 is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 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.
  • 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 or misdemeanour. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance.

The Court, however, said that 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. [Parbatbhai Aahir v. State of Gujarat, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 1189, decided on 04.10.2017]

 

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Delhi High Court: While disposing of a petition filed under Section 482 CrPC, the Single Bench of S.P. Garg, J. held that if the prosecutrix had made specific and clear allegations against the accused to have committed rape upon her, then the criminal proceedings against the accused cannot be quashed merely on the grounds that the prosecutrix has later retracted from her statement.

In the instant case, the prosecutrix, in her statement to the police, had implicated the petitioner for committing sexual assault upon her on the pretext to provide her job in his office. She also reiterated this version before the Metropolitan Magistrate. Later, a supplementary statement of the prosecutrix was recorded under Section 161 CrPC. She also filed an application to the SHO denying the allegations leveled by her in her previous complaint. Nevertheless, a charge-sheet had been filed against the petitioner for commission of offence under Section 376 IPC.

The High Court noted that the supplementary statement and the application moved before the SHO cannot be taken into consideration to throw away the earlier complaint of prosecutrix. The  Court further added that it was to be ascertained during trial as to how and in what circumstances, the prosecutrix denied her earlier version or whether it was due to some threats or pressure, and it would be unsafe to quash the FIR/charge-sheet on the basis of the prosecutrix’s retraction from her statement. The petition was accordingly dismissed. [Dilip Kumar Gupta v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2017 SCC OnLine Del 6576, decided on January 18, 2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Deciding on the matter of whether the crime registered under Section 304-A of Penal Code, 1860 can be quashed on the basis of compromise arrived at by the legal heir/legal representative of the victim/deceased, with the offender, the two judge bench comprising of Mahesh Grover and Lisa Gill, JJ., observed that to quash the proceedings under Section 304-A solely on the basis of a settlement or compromise arrived at between the accused and the legal representatives is not permissible and militates against all canons of justice. It was further said that in the case under Section 304-A IPC the victim is obviously not present to settle the matter and hence, to permit a legal representative or legal heir to compromise or settle the matter is indeed an invitation to a dangerous trend and cannot be permitted.

Rejecting the contention that the offence under Section 304-A IPC is private in nature, the Court observed that, to consider that an offence under Section 304-A is private in nature is wholly incorrect and it is an offence which impacts society as a whole, permeating to the very core.

The Court further held that undoubtedly, there is a distinction between the power of the Court to compound an offence under Section 320 Cr. P.C. and quashing of criminal proceedings in exercise of power under Section 482 Cr. P.C. It is trite to mention that the power of the High Court under Section 482 Cr. P.C. can nevertheless be exercised in appropriate matters where it is felt that a prima facie case is not made out in consonance with the settled principles of law. (Baldev Singh v. State of Punjab, 2016 SCC OnLine P&H 4509, Decided on  02.06.2016).