Our Indian legal system provides the provision for quashing of criminal complaints and other proceedings on two major grounds first is to prevent the abuse of process of court and other is to secure the ends of justice. These two grounds are wide enough to secure justice to the aggrieved person who is falsely implicated in the criminal proceedings. The term quashing means to put a stop on something already pending. Before moving further it is apposite to discuss the relevant terms covering the present topic such as criminal complaints, criminal proceedings and quashing. Let’s start by simplifying these terms.
Criminal complaint is action through which an aggrieved party set the legal machinery into force on account of some illegal act. Criminal complaint is of two types. One is FIR and second is private complaint. FIR is registered by police authorities and private compliant is a complaint which is given to the Magistrate either orally or in writing. According to Section 2 of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) a complaint is the allegation of fact which constitutes a complaint. FIR is a very first step in criminal matter in which facts of the commission of the offence is reported to the police authorities by the person. That person can be a witness, victim or a person who has knowledge about the commission of the offence.
There are series of stages which develops criminal prosecution. These various stages of criminal prosecution are called criminal proceedings. Some examples of criminal proceedings include trial, bail and applications et al.
Quashing means to abate, dismiss or to form it completely void. The term quashing of criminal complaints or proceedings gives the idea of stopping the legal process which had been set in motion. In easiest terms, it means to end the legal proceedings which are pending before the court of law.
What are the legal provisions?
The Code of Criminal Procedure laid down the provisions for quashing of criminal proceedings. The Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. grants inherent powers to the High Court to prevent the abuse of court process and to secure ends of justice. The Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. enumerated below:-
“Saving of inherent powers of High Court Nothing is this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such order as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”
The powers granted to the High Court under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. are wide enough to protect the person from any false implication in the criminal proceedings.
Which court can quash criminal complaint and proceedings?
The High Court can quash the criminal complaints and proceedings by using its inherent powers granted under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. If the court thinks that the criminal proceeding are abuse of court process and false then can quash the criminal complaints and proceedings so as to secure the ends of justice. A person can even moved to the Hon’ble Supreme Court by filing Special Leave Petition (SLP) under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution in case of dismissal of quashing plea by High Court.
Judicial interpretation on quashing of criminal proceedings:
In Parbatbhai Ahir vs State of Gujarat & Anr. (Criminal Appeal No. 1723 of 2017) The Hon’ble Supreme Court vides its judgement dated 4th October, 2017, summarized various principles to govern the inherent powers of High Court. These are given below:-
- Section 482 preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent an abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice. The provision does not confer new powers. It only recognizes and preserves powers which inhere in the High Court.
- The invocation of the jurisdiction of the High Court to quash FIR or criminal proceedings 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 P.C. The power to quash under Section 482 is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable.
- In forming an opinion whether a criminal proceedings or complaint should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 482 the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power.
- While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised to secure ends of justice and to prevent an abuse of the process of any court.
- The decision as to whether a complaint or FIR 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.
- 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 through the victim or the family of the victim has settled the dispute. Such offences are truly speaking not private in nature but have serious impact on 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 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 favour may in appropriate situations fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute.
- In such a case, the High Court may quash the criminal proceedings if in view of the compromise between the disputants, the possibility a conviction is remote and the continuation of criminal proceedings 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 misdemeanor. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weight in the balance.
In Prashant Bharti vs State of NCT of Delhi (Criminal Appeal No. 175 of 2013), the Apex Court laid down some questions which must be analyzed by the High Court in quashing of criminal proceedings, if answer to those questions is in affirmative then Court should quash the proceedings by exercising its inherent powers. Those questions are the following:-
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sound, reasonable and indubitable?
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sufficient to reject and overrule the factual assertions contained in the complaint?
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused has not been refuted by the prosecution/complainant and/or the material is such, that it cannot be justifiably refuted by the prosecution/complainant?
- Whether proceedings with the trial would result in an abuse of process of the court and hence, would not serve the ends of justice?
The essence of the criminal law is to guard the society against criminals. By incorporating the Section 482 of Cr.P.C. wide powers has been given to the courts. This section enables the courts to provide proper justice and to stop the public from filing the fictitious complaints just to fulfill their personal grudges. It is the duty of the court to use these powers properly and wisely so that innocent people may not become the victim of oppression caused by the false criminal proceedings.
Associate at Aggarwals & Associates S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali