Inherent Power of High Courts | Non-compoundable Offences | Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 | Find Your Advocate

Inherent Power of High Courts | Non-compoundable Offences under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 | Find Your Advocate

Inherent Power of High Courts | Non-compoundable Offences under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 |

written by - Shrey Sinha


Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (Cr.P.C.) under section 320 provides for compounding of certain offences under Indian Penal Code (IPC). Provision dealing with compounding of offences encourages out of Court settlement of disputes and thus, reducing the burden of the Court thereby saving both its time and effort. There have been several instances where High Courts have considered cases for compounding of non-compoundable offences while exercising its inherent power under section 482 of Cr.P.C. where parties have approached the Court for the same. However, there have been no uniform pattern followed by the High Courts and this led to confusion among the litigants. Therefore, in order to remove this ambiguity, Supreme Court has provided guidelines to be followed by High Courts while exercising its inherent powers when dealing with such cases and this essay discusses these judicial observations on compounding of non-compoundable offences under Cr.P.C.
Sections 320 and 482 of Cr.P.C.: 
Brief discussion
Crime, in its simplest form, is a punishable act which breaks the rule of law. According to Black`s Law Dictionary, “crime is an act that the law makes punishable; the breach of a legal duty treated as subject matter of a criminal proceeding”. A crime is essentially a wrong done to the society and its consequences can range from trivial to severe. Criminal justice system has a greater purpose to achieve, that is, safety and protection of people at large. Offence is defined as “any act or omission made punishable by any law for the time being in the force”. Compoundable offences are those offences which can be compromised i.e. offences for which the victim enters into a compromise and agrees to drop the charges against the accused. These are less serious and private in nature. Generally, these are punishable with less than 3 years of imprisonment. Non-compoundable offences are more serious in nature and cause harm to both private persons and the society. Therefore, they are outside ambit of section 320 of Cr.P.C.
Section 320 of Cr.P.C articulates the public policy with regard to compounding of offences. The power to compound an offence is at discretion of the victim. Section 320 catalogues the offences punishable under Indian Penal code which may be compoundable by parties without the permission of the court and the composition of certain offences with the permission of the court. Section 320 (1) of Cr.P.C lists 21 Penal Code offences which can be compounded by the persons mentioned in third column of table given, without the permission of the court. Examples of such offences are voluntary causing hurt, mischief, defamation, criminal trespass etc.                         
section 320 (2) of  Cr.P.C lists 36 Penal Code offences which with the permission of the court before which any prosecution for such offence is pending, be compounded by the persons mentioned in third column of the table given. Examples of such offences are causing miscarriage, voluntary causing grievous hurt, theft etc.

Inherent Power of High Courts | Non-compoundable Offences under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 |

The rule embodied under Section 320 (3) of Cr.P.C., provides that if an offence is compoundable under section 320, the abetment of the offence or an attempt to commit such offence maybe compounded in like manner.  Section 320(7) of Cr.P.C. provides for a limitation on compounding of offences. According to it, no offence shall be compounded, if the accused is, by reason of a previous conviction, liable either to enhanced punishment or a punishment of different kind for such offence.  Section 320(9) of Cr.P.C. mentions that no offence should be compounded except as provided by this section.
Section 482 of Cr.P.C. provides for the inherent power of the High Court. This section merely safeguards the twin objectives of existing inherent powers possessed by the High Court, that is, to prevent abuse of the process of any court or to secure ends of justice. The formation of opinion of the High Court before it exercises inherent powers under section 482 on either of its twin objectives is sine qua non.  It is the judicial obligation of the High Court to undo a wrong in the course of administration of justice or to prevent continuation of unnecessary judicial process. Such exercise of inherent powers by the High court would depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. Hence, providing a straitjacket formula regulating exercise of inherent powers under section 482 is neither permissible nor proper for courts. Moreover,      Privy Council held that Section 561A (corresponding to Section 482 of the Code) had not given any increased powers to the Court, but the section only provides that powers which it already inherently possessed 
In Madhu Limaye v. The State of Maharashtra, the Supreme Court held that following principles may be noticed in relation to exercise of inherent powers by the High Court which has been followed, almost invariably barring few exceptions. They are, first, the power is not to be restored to if there is a specific provision in the code for redressing the grievance of the aggrieved party. Second, it should be exercised sparingly so as to prevent abuse of process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice. Third, it should not be exercised against the express bar of law engrafted in the code.
Concerned Point: 
How should the High Courts exercise its inherent powers u/s 482 of Cr.P.C, when either of the parties approaches the court to compound the offences which are outside the ambit of Section.320 of Cr.P.C on the basis of compromise or agreement reached between the parties?

Inherent Power of High Courts | Non-compoundable Offences under Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 |

Judicial Approaches:
Initial Trend:  

The Supreme Court in case of Y. Suresh Babu v. State of A.P and Anr,  has allowed the parties to compound non-compoundable offence. The appellant was convicted under Section 326 of IPC and later he compromised with the other party of remorse.  But, the apex Court also held that the decision of Y.Suresh Babu should not be treated as a precedent.


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