Cannot set aside convictions based on compromise between parties: Bombay HC

A three-judge bench of the Bombay high court (HC) has clarified that it is not permissible to ordinarily set aside the conviction for non-compoundable offences at an appellate or revisional stage, only on the ground of compromise between the parties.

The bench comprising justices AS Chandurkar, Vinay Joshi and NB Suryavanshi said HC should exercise powers under section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) to set aside such convictions “only in rarest of rare cases,” when found necessary to prevent the abuse of the process of the court or to secure the ends of justice.

The bench said any compromise entered into post-conviction for a non-compoundable offence cannot, by itself, result in acquittal of the accused. “Similarly, the court has no power to compound an offence which is not permitted to be compounded under section 320 of the CrPC,” the bench added.

The compromise entered into, therefore, is just a mitigating factor, the bench observed, adding that such compromise can be taken into account by the appeal or revisional court to impose an appropriate sentence.

The three-judge bench was hearing a reference – whether the power under section 482 CrPC ought to be exercised for setting aside the conviction altogether upon a settlement between the convict and the victim.

The issue was referred for consideration of the larger bench after a two-member bench at Nagpur refused to accept the view taken by a division bench at Aurangabad, striking down a conviction on the ground of settlement between the parties, observing that maintaining cordial relations between individuals – between the convict and victim in that case – was in the larger interest of the society and therefore inherent powers under Section 482 of the Code were required to be invoked to set aside the conviction.

The three-judge bench has cautioned against a casual approach in setting aside convictions on the ground of settlement. It said if a conviction cannot be set aside in an appeal or revision (on merits), such a result cannot be achieved using section 482 of CrPC only on the ground that the parties have entered into a compromise.

The three-judge bench has therefore held that a post-conviction compromise can be raised only before the appellate or revisional court and ordinarily it should be considered as a mitigating factor for sentencing.

It would be a sound exercise of discretion under section 482 of the code and under the law of the land to refuse to quash criminal proceedings post-conviction for a non-compoundable offence only on the ground of compromise between the parties, the larger bench added.

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