SC Reiterates That Settlement Between Victim And Accused Not A Valid Ground To Quash FIR/Charge-Sheet When Offences Are Serious And Against Society

                             As usual, the Supreme Court has once again just recently on February 10, 2020 in a latest and laudable judgment titled Arun Singh & Others Vs. State of U.P. through its Secretary & Another in Criminal Appeal No. 250 of 2020 (Arising out of Special Leave Petition (CRL) No. 5224 of 2017 has once again reiterated that settlement between victim and the accused cannot be a valid ground to quash the FIR or the charge sheet when the offences alleged are against society and not private in nature. If settlement is allowed in such serious cases as that of Section 493 IPC and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act then it will only serve to further encourage and abet the crime which cannot be allowed to happen under any circumstances! This alone explains why the Apex Court in this latest case too has ruled like always! There can be no denying or disputing it!

To start with, the ball is set rolling in this notable judgment authored by Justice Krishna Murari for himself and Justice Navin Sinha by first and foremost observing in para 2 after granting leave in para 1 that, “This appeal is directed against the impugned judgment and order dated 24.11.2016 passed by the High Court (High Court of Judicature at Allahabad) dismissing the petition filed by the appellants under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (in short ‘the CrPC’) challenging the charge sheet filed against them. The High Court while rejecting Section 482 CrPC petition directed the accused appellants to surrender before the Court concerned within 30 days from the date of order and in case they do so within the stipulated period and apply for bail the same was liable to be considered and decided in view of law laid down by full Bench of High Court in case of Amrawati & Another versus State of U.P. (2004 (57) ALR 290) affirmed by this court in Lal Kamlendra Pratap Singh versus State of U.P. (2009 (3) ADI 322 (SC)).”

To recapitulate, it is then illustrated in para 3 that, “Shorn of unnecessary details the brief facts which led to the filing of this appeal can be summarised as under:-

Respondent No. 2 lodged First Information Report with Police Station Izzat Nagar, District Bareilly under Section 493 I.P.C. read with Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act against the appellants herein which was registered as case crime No. 431 of 2014. The allegations made in the F.I.R. were that Respondent No.-2 approached Appellants with the proposal of marriage of his daughter Jyoti with Appellant No.-1. On 30th June, 2013 the appellants visited the house of Respondent No.-2 and after meeting his daughter the proposal was finalised. On 21.07.2013, ring ceremony was performed and date of marriage was scheduled for 19.11.2013. Thereafter, Appellant No.-2 started visiting the house of complainant/respondent no.-2, frequently and misleading his daughter Jyoti that now since the marriage is finalised and only ceremony of ‘feras’ remains to be performed took her for outings on various occasions. On 16.08.2013 appellant No.-2 induced Jyoti to his room and established physical relationship with her. However, subsequently thereto the appellant started making demand of dowry of Rs. 5 Lakh. A complaint in this regard was made before Mahila Thana but no action was taken. On coming to know that marriage of Appellant No.-2 was settled with some other girl for a handsome amount of dowry, the First Information Report was being lodged.”

As it turned out, para 4 then reveals that, “The matter was investigated by the concerned Police Station and a charge sheet was filed against the appellants, which was challenged before the High Court by way of petition under Section 482 CrPC.”

What follows next is laid bare in para 5 which states that, “The case set up by the appellants before the High Court was that behaviour of the complainant and his family members changed after the date of marriage was fixed and they refused to share the expenses of marriage, which was settled between the parties to be shared equally. Further, a demand of Rs. 10 Lakhs was made from the appellants with a threat to implicate them in a false case in case the demand was not fulfilled. It was further pleaded that Appellant No.-2 made an application under Section 156(3) CrPC before the ACJM against the complainant and his other family members. During the pendency of proceedings under Section 156(3) CrPC a complaint was made by Respondent No. 2 in the Mahila Thana. The inspector incharge of Mahila Thana summoned both the parties where the dispute between them was compromised. In view of the compromise arrived, the appellants did not press the application under Section 156(3) CrPC. However, the Complainant-Respondent No.-2 filed the First Information Report after about 10 months of the compromise.”

Be it noted, after observing in para 10 that, “We have considered the rival submissions and perused the facts on record” the Bench then observes in para 11 that, “The offence under Section 493 is non-compoundable. Similarly, the offence under Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is also non-compoundable, in view of Section 8(2) of the said Act, which provides that every offence under this Act, shall be non-bailable and non-compoundable.”

More to the point, it is then very rightly mentioned in para 14 that, “In another decision in the case of Narinder Singh Vs. State of Punjab (2014) 6 SCC 466 it has been observed that in respect of offence against the society it is the duty to punish the offender. Hence, even where there is a settlement between the offender and victim the same shall not prevail since it is in interests of the society that offender should be punished which acts as deterrent for others from committing similar crime. On the other hand, there may be offences falling in the category where the correctional objective of criminal law would have to be given more weightage than the theory of deterrent punishment. In such cases, the court may be of the opinion that a settlement between the parties would lead to better relations between them and would resolve a festering private dispute and thus may exercise power under Section 482 CrPC for quashing the proceedings or the complaint or the FIR as the case may be.”

More significantly, it is then very rightly underscored in para 15 that, “Bearing in mind the above principles which have been laid down, we are of the view that offences for which the appellants have been charged are in fact offences against society and not private in nature. Such offences have serious impact upon society and continuance of trial of such cases is founded on the overriding effect of public interests in punishing persons for such serious offences. It is neither an offence arising out of commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership or such similar transactions or has any element of civil dispute thus it stands on a distinct footing. In such cases, settlement even if arrived at between the complainant and the accused, the same cannot constitute a valid ground to quash the F.I.R. or the charge sheet.”

What’s more, it is then very rightly held in para 16 that, “Thus the High Court cannot be said to be unjustified in refusing to quash the charge sheet on the ground of compromise between the parties.”

On a different note, while dwelling on Section 493 of the IPC, it is then laid bare in para 18 that, “A plain reading of the Section goes to show that in order to constitute an offence under this Section, it has to be demonstrated that a man has deceitfully caused any woman, who is not lawfully married to him, to believe that she is lawfully married wife and thereby co-habit with him. In other words, the accused must induce a woman, not lawfully married to him, to believe that she is married to him and as a result of such mis-representation, woman should believe that she was lawfully married to the man and thus there should be co-habitation or sexual intercourse.”

While elaborating further, it is then held in para 20 that, “The essence of an offence under Section 493 IPC is, therefore, practice of deception by a man on a woman as a consequence of which the woman is led to believe that she is lawfully married to him although she is not and then make her cohabit with him.”

Furthermore, it is then held in para 21 that, “Deceit can be said to be a false statement of fact made by a person knowingly and recklessly with the intent that it shall be acted upon by another who on believing the same after having acted thereupon suffers an injury. It is an attempt  to deceive and includes such declaration and statement that misleads others or causes him to believe which otherwise is false and incorrect.”

Needless to say, it is then made amply clear again in para 22 that, “In other words, to constitute an offence under Section 493 I.P.C., the allegations in the FIR must demonstrate that appellant had practiced deception on the daughter of the complainant causing a false belief of existence of lawful marriage and which led her to cohabit with him.”

On the face of it, the Bench then observes in para 23 that, “From a perusal of the F.I.R., we do not find that allegations made therein can be said to constitute any offence under Section 493 IPC. There are no allegation of any inducement or any deceit to make the victim believe that she was lawfully married to the appellant, which mislead her to have sexual intercourse with the accused appellant no. 1. Only allegations in the First Information Report in this regard are that “after the marriage was settled, the appellant no. 1 started visiting the house of the complainant frequently and would mislead and instigate his daughter that relation is final and only ‘Feras’ remains to be performed. On the fateful day. i.e., 16.08.2013, the appellant no. 1 took leave and enticed and instigated his daughter took her to his room and promising that she is being his wife established physical relations.””

To put things in perspective, the Bench then while stating the obvious notes in para 24 that, “A perusal of the averments would go to show that ingredients to constitute an offence under Section 493 I.P.C. are missing from the averments. The allegations do not even prima-facie, cull out any inducement of belief in the victim that she is lawfully married to the appellant no. 1 and on account of this deceitful misstatement, the victim co-habited with the accused. Since the essential ingredients to constitute an offence under Section 493 I.P.C. are missing from the allegations made in the F.I.R., offence under the said Section cannot be said to be made out against the appellants.”

Not stopping here, the Bench then further added that, “It is also to be taken note that whatever the allegations in this regard, have been made only against the accused-appellant no. 1 which also do not constitute an offence and there are no allegations in this regard in respect of other five accused-appellants.”

As anticipated, the Bench then holds in para 26 that, “The High Court having failed to advert itself to the aforesaid aspects discussed hereinabove and to that extent, the judgment is not liable to be sustained.”

To say the least, the Bench then observes in para 29 that, “A reading of the above provisions shows that essential ingredients of the offence under Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act are that the persons accused should have made demand directly or indirectly from the parents or other relatives or guardians of a bride or a bride groom as the case may be any dowry and/or abets the giving and taking of dowry. The allegations of the F.I.R. quoted hereinabove clearly go to show that a demand of dowry of Rs 5 Lakhs was made by the appellants from the complainants and thus it cannot be said that no offence under the Dowry Prohibition Act are made out against the appellants. There being direct allegations of demand of Dowry in the First Information Report, the allegations prima-facie constitute a commission of an offence under the Dowry Prohibition Act and thus the charges leveled against the appellants under Section 3/4 of the said Act, are not liable to be quashed.”

Most crucially, it is then observed in para 30 that, “In view of the above facts and discussions, we are of the considered view that insofar as offence under Section 493 I.P.C. is concerned, since F.I.R. does not disclose the commission of any offence under the said Section and thus continuance of the criminal prosecution under the said section would amount to abuse of process of the Court and the order of the High Court to that extent is liable to be set aside. However, insofar as offence against the appellants under Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act is concerned, since the allegations disclose the commission of cognizable offence in the F.I.R., it is not a fit case to exercise power under Section 482 CrPC and to quash criminal proceedings against the appellants for the said offence.”

Finally, it is then held in the last para 31 that, “As a result of our aforesaid discussion, the charge sheet insofar as Section 493 is concerned stands quashed. However, in respect of charge sheet under Section 3 read with Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, the appeal stands dismissed.”

To conclude, the sum and substance of this notable ruling is that settlement between victim and the accused cannot be a valid ground to quash the FIR or the charge sheet when the offences alleged are against society and not private in nature. Such offences have serious impact upon society and continuance of trial of such cases is founded on the overriding effect of public interests in punishing persons for such serious offences. We have already dealt considerably in detail while discussing about this in para 15. There is certainly now nothing more substantial to be said here!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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