High Courts can quash criminal proceedings to meet ends of justice

The Supreme Court on Friday directed trial courts and High Courts to encourage genuine settlement of matrimonial disputes, of which there has been an “outburst” in recent times.

“Even if the offences are non-compoundable, if they relate to matrimonial disputes and the court is satisfied that the parties have settled the same amicably and without pressure, we hold that for the purpose of securing ends of justice, Section 320 of the Cr.PC. would not be a bar to quashing the FIR, complaint or subsequent criminal proceedings,” said a three-judge Bench.

Writing the judgment, Justice P. Sathasivam said, “The institution of marriage occupies an important place and it has an important role to play in society.” Therefore, if the parties pondered their faults and terminated their disputes amicably by mutual agreement, the courts should be less hesitant about exercising their extraordinary jurisdiction.

The Bench, which included Justices J.S. Khehar and Kurian Joseph, said: “Matrimonial disputes have been on considerable increase in recent times, resulting in the filing of complaints under Sections 498A and 406 of IPC against not only the husband but also his relatives. The question is: when such matters are resolved either by the wife agreeing to rejoin the matrimonial home or by mutual settlement of other pending disputes for which both sides approached the High Court and jointly prayed for quashing the criminal proceedings or the FIR or complaint by the wife under Sections 498A and 406 of IPC, can the prayer be declined on the sole ground that the offences are non-compoundable under Section 320 of the Cr.PC?”

The Bench held that the High Court, in exercise of its inherent powers, could quash the criminal proceedings or the FIR or the complaint in appropriate cases in order to meet the ends of justice. Section 320 of the Cr.PC “does not limit or affect the powers of the High Court under Section 482 Cr.PC.”

In the instant case, Babita, following harassment and torture by her husband Jitendra Raghuvanshi (whom she married on February 22. 2002) and his relatives, filed a petition under Sections 498A and 406 of the IPC and Sections 3 and 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act in the trial court. However, in 2012, the parties, with the help of family members and friends, amicably settled their differences. Babita filed an affidavit stating she did not wish to pursue the criminal proceedings against the appellants. But this plea was rejected by the trial court and later by the Madhya Pradesh High Court on the ground that the offences were non-compoundable.

The Supreme Court allowed the appeal against this judgment.

  • Marriage has important role to play in society

  • If parties end disputes amicably, courts can exercise extraordinary jurisdiction