Heinous crimes and the law: India

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Out of court settlement not allowed: SC

AmitAnand Choudhary, Can't quash heinous crime cases even if parties settle dispute: SC, October 5, 2017: The Times of India

The Supreme Court ruled that criminal proceedings in serious offences like rape, murder, dacoity and financial fraud cannot be quashed even if the parties settle the dispute amicably as such offences are not private in nature.

“Heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed though the victim or the family of the victim have settled the dispute (sic). Such offences are, truly speaking, not private in nature but have a serio us 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,“ a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud said. Bringing the offence of finan cial and economic fraud ona par with other heinous offences like murder and rape, the court held that the accused in such cases could not be let off even if the litigants resolved the dispute in an out-of-court settlement as it created a dent in the economic spine of the country .

“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 courts would be justified in declining to quash where the offender is involved in an activity akin to a financial or economic fraud or misdemeanour. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance,“ the bench said.

The court passed the order while dismissing an appeal filed by four persons seeking quashing of the FIR against them for allegedly grabbing land on the basis of forged documents in Gujarat. They contended that the FIR should be quashed since the matter had been settled with the land owner who had filed a criminal complaint against them.

The court said that a high court could quash the proceedings in criminal cases which were predominantly civil in nature after parties settled the dispute but not in 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 a 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 flavour may , in appropriate situations, fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute,“ it said.

Referring to its earlier verdict, the bench said the entire community would be aggrieved if prosecution against economic offenders was not allowed to continue.

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