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Partial Quashing of FIRs Based on Partial Compromises

Introduction

The Punjab & Haryana High Court (‘PHC’), in the case of Rakesh Das v. State of Haryana[i] was posited to answer whether partial quashing of the first information report (‘FIR’) is permissible solely for the accused who have reached a partial compromise with the victim. To address this issue, the HC formulated specific questions and referred the matter to a larger bench due to the absence of clear precedential guidance (ratio decidendi) and conflicting decisions from coordinate benches.

Brief Facts

  • The petitions in this case were filed seeking partial quashing of the FIR for certain accused who had reached a compromise with the complainant/victim.

  • The HC referenced facts from the petition titled ‘Rakesh Das v. State of Haryana & Anr.’, wherein the petitioner sought the quashing of the FIR and all consequential proceedings arising therefrom.

  • In the FIR there were seven accused. Based on the compromise with the complainant/victim, one of the accused filed the petition for quashing the FIR, while the other accused were not included in the writ petition.

  • The counsel for the petitioner submitted that since the petitioner's role was segregable from his co-accused, the FIR was suitable for partial quashing. It was further submitted that since the complainant had entered into a compromise with the petitioner, there was no justification to support the case against the petitioner. Thus, subjecting the petitioner to trial despite being absolved by the complainant would constitute a sheer abuse of the process of law.

  • The counsel for the other petitioner in this batch of petitions placed reliance on M/s Shakuntala Sawhney v. Mrs Kaushalya Sawhney[ii] and Kulwinder Singh and Ors v. State of Punjab & Anr.[iii] to highlight the importance of compromise in the justice delivery system and the inherent power of the High Courts (‘HCs’) to allow the compounding of even non-compoundable offences and quash prosecution.

  • While addressing the issue of partial quashing of the FIR based on partial compromise, the High Court posed a specific question to the petitioner, ‘how in the absence of any of the judgments cited by him laying down any ratio about the effect of partial compromise upon the pendency of trial relating to other co-accused, the said petition would be maintainable, and that, this issue requires consideration’.

Submissions of Amicus Curiae

  • Thereafter, the PHC appointed an Amicus Curiae, who opposed the arguments of the petitioners. He submitted that while the judgments in both Shakuntala Sawhney’s case (supra) and Kulwinder Singh's case (supra), lay down that there is no fetter on the inherent power of the HC to compound even non-compoundable offences, they do not deal with the repercussions of a partial compromise on the trail of other co-accused.

  • The Amicus Curiae further noted that the petitioner's reliance on Jayrajsinh Digvijaysinh Rana v. State of Gujarat and Anr.[iv], was misplaced. Although FIRs were quashed in that case based on a partial compromise, it did not examine the repercussions of such quashing on the trials of other co-accused. Therefore, this judgment cannot be adverted as a binding precedent. Additionally, no ratio decidendi from the cases cited by the petitioners could be identified to answer the PHC.

  • Based on these observations, the Amicus Curiae posed two critical questions:

    • “Whether, bearing in mind the repercussions attached to the partial quashing of FIR, on the trial of other co-accused, can a partial compromise yet ably constitute the ground for quashing of FIR, only qua some of the accused?

    • Would partial quashing of criminal proceedings, on the strength of partial compromise, elevate the status of the victim from that of a stakeholder to that of a driver of the criminal justice system?”

  • While dealing with the first question, the amicus curie submitted that the entire scheme of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘CrPC’), from cognisance to compounding emphasises the ‘offence’ and not the ‘offender’. Further, he submitted that the Indian Penal Code, 1860 envisages myriad offence and their punishment, therefore, quashing criminal proceedings only qua some of the accused basis partial compromise shall bear multiple ramifications on other co-accused.

  • With respect to the second issue, the Amicus Curiae relying on the Amendment Act No. 5 of 2009 to the CrPC, submitted that pursuant to the amendment the victim has become a stakeholder in the criminal trial process, endowed with rights such as compensation and the ability to appeal against acquittals.

  • He concluded that although the law recognizes the victim as a stakeholder, permitting partial quashing of the FIR at the whim of the complainant would improperly elevate their status to that of a driver of the criminal justice system, a role not intended by the underlying principles of the CrPC.

Held

  • The PHC while referring the matter to a larger bench cited the following as reasons for the referral:

    • Regarding Jayrajsinh Rana’s (supra) case, although the Hon’ble Supreme Court (‘SC’) quashed the FIR based on a partial compromise it did not address the specific questions posed in this case. Consequently, the PHC concurred with the submissions of the Amicus Curiae on this point.

    • The PHC noted that the other judgments of the SC and co-ordinate benches, where FIRs were quashed based on partial compromises, were similar to Jayrajsinh Rana (supra). There was a notable lack of ratio decidendi concerning the critical points raised by the PHC. As such, none of these judgments were considered binding precedents.

  • Consequently, due to the absence of ‘explicit guidelines/ratio decidendi/ legal precedent’ coupled with conflicting views from the co-ordinate benches the PHC referred the matter to a larger bench on the following points: -

    • “Whether, bearing in mind the repercussions attached to the partial quashing of FIR, on the trial of other co-accused, can a partial compromise yet ably constitute the ground for quashing of FIR, only qua some of the accused?

    • Would partial quashing of criminal proceedings, on the strength of partial compromise, elevate the status of the victim from that of a stakeholder to that of a driver of the criminal justice system?”

 Our Analysis

In this case, the PHC addressed the request for partial quashing of the FIR concerning a partial compromise with the complainant. The PHC critically evaluated the implications of such quashing on the trials of other co-accused. It noted that even the precedents cited by the petitioner, which allowed partial quashing of the FIR, failed to provide a clear legal rationale (ratio decidendi) for such decisions. Consequently, after considering the arguments of the petitioner and the submissions of the Amicus Curiae, the PHC referred the matter to a larger bench. The central questions posed were whether a partial compromise could justifiably serve as grounds for quashing the FIR against only some of the accused and whether doing so would inappropriately elevate the status of the victim to that of a primary influencer in the criminal justice system.

The answers to this referral are of significant importance in cases where multiple accused are named in an FIR and, due to various circumstances, some have reached a compromise with the complainant. Moreover, the outcomes of this referral could crucially determine the territorial applicability of the practice of partial quashing of an FIR based on a partial compromise for only some of the accused.




End Notes

[i] CRM-M-48043/2023

[ii] 1980 1 SCC 63

[iii] (2007) SCC Online P&H 792

[iv] 2012 (12) SCC 401




Authored by Huzaifa Salim, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.

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