Report No. 154
Compounding of Offences: Section 320
1. The Code of Criminal Procedure in section 320 contains detailed provisions for compounding of offences. Sub-section (1) of section 320 lists 21 offences under the Indian Penal Code which may be compounded by the specified aggrieved party without the permission of the court and sub-section (2) lists 36 other offences under the Indian Penal Code which also may be compounded but only after securing the permission of the court. Under the scheme of section 320, namely sub-section 9, offences other than those specified in sub-sections (1) and (2) are not compoundable.
2. The rationale for compounding of offences is that the chastened attitude of the accused and the praiseworthy attitude of the complainant in order to restore peace and harmony in society, must be given effect to in the composition of offences.
3.1. The Law commission in its 41st Report on the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1969 had not agreed to the formulation of a general rule for compounding by relating compoundable offences to the punishment provided for the offence. The Commission felt that it was "better to have clear and specific provisions such as those contained in section 345 (of the old Code) than a general rule which is likely to lead to different interpretations1.
1. Law Commission, 41st report, para. 24.66, (1969).
3.2. The Commission also did not approve of the abolition of the distinction between offences compoundable with and without the permission of the court. The Commission observed that "the safeguard of the court's permission is to prevent an abuse of the right to compound and to enable the court to take into account the special circumstances of the case which may justify composition. It is not in every case that such a safeguard is required"1.
1. Ibid., para. 24.67.
3.3. The Commission did not approve of adding to the list of offences in sub-section (1) or in sub-section (2) of section 345 those offences which jeopardize the public peace, order and security e.g. being member of an unlawful assembly, (section 143); rioting (section 147); false claim in a court of justice (section 209), fraudulently obtaining decrees (section 210); driving or riding on a public way so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life (section 279); causing death by rash or negligent act (section 304A); causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon (section 326); wrongful confinement for extortion (section 347);
Theft in a building (section 380); lurking house trespass or house breaking by night (section 456); the same in order to commit an offence (section 457); and bigamy with concealment (section 495).1
1. Ibid., para. 24.69.
3.4. The Commission's view was that the offence of unlawful compulsory labour punishable under section 374, I.P.C. should not be compoundable and should be committed from the list in section 345(1)1.
1. Ibid., para. 24.72.
3.5. The Commission opined that "theft where the value of property stolen does not exceed 250 rupees" should continue to be in sub-section (2) of section 345 (old Code).1
1. Law Commission, 41st report, para. 24.71. The offence of petty theft (to the limited extent) was made compoundable in 1955.
3.6. The Commission recommended addition to the list in sub-section (2) the following offences:
(i) Assault or criminal force on women with intent to outrage her modesty (section 354).
(ii) Receiving or retaining stolen property (section 411).
(iii) Assisting in the concealment or disposal of stolen property (section 414)1.
1. Ibid., para. 24.70.
3.7. The above recommendations of the Law Commission were incorporated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
4. Of late, various High Courts have quashed criminal proceedings in respect of non-cognizable offences because of settlement between the parties to achieve harmony and peace in the society. For instance, criminal proceedings in respect of offences under section 406, I.P.C., relating to criminal breach of trust of dowry articles or stridhan and offences under section 498A, I.P.C., relating to cruelty on woman by husband or relatives of husband were quashed in Arun Kumar Vohra v. Reetu Vohra, 1995 (1) All India Criminal Law Reporter 31; Nirlap Singh v. State of Punjab, 1993 (2) All India Criminal Law Reporter 800.
In the Workshops convened by the Law Commission at various places, it was felt that as section 498A is not included in the Tables appended to section 320 of the Code, it could not be compounded by the parties. Many instances were cited where though the parties wanted to compound yet in the absence of an enabling provision, they could not do so. This has created hardship even in genuine cases. In order to meet this situation, it is recommended that section 498A be inserted in the Table under sub-section (2) where it can be compounded with the permission of the Court.
5. Though section 320(3) postulates compoundability of the abetment or attempt to commit such offences mentioned in the Tables appended to section 320, there is no such provision where the accused is constructively liable under sections 34 and 149, I.P.C. If the provision is left as it is, only in respect of substantive offences mentioned in the Tables, compounding is possible, and not in respect of cases of constructive liability for the same offences. This view was highlighted in all the Workshops.
Likewise, in respect of offence of rioting resulting in the offences mentioned in the two Tables there is no provision for compounding. The offences punishable under sections 147 and 148 of I.P.C. committed during the same transaction, the transaction being one and the same, where the guilt is proved, the accused are to be convicted under all those sections. It will be anomalous if one part of the offence is compoundable and other part remain non-compoundable where the convictions are under both. Accordingly sub-section (3) be amended suitably.
6. The Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 1994, in clause 33, has incorporated the following:
"(i) The offence of voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means (section 324) should cease to be a compoundable offence with the permission of the court in sub-section (2) of section 320."
But we are of the view that offences under sections 324, 325 and 335, I.P.C. be shifted to the Table under sub-section (1) from the Table under sub-section (2) of section 320.
7. We are also of the view owing to the fall in the value of rupee resulting from inflationary conditions, the limit of Rs. 250 in the offences in the list of offences in sub-section (2), be raised to Rs. 2,000, as provided under clause 33 of the Bill.
8. With the legalisation of abortion under the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act, 1971, section 312 of I.P.C. relating to the offence of causing miscarriage of woman, will have to be interpreted in the light of the provisions of the Act. This offence should be made compoundable by the parties with the permission of the Court. Accordingly, we recommend the incorporation of offence under section 312, I.P.C. to the Table under sub-section (2) of section 320.
9. We recommend that as a matter of policy more offences be brought under the category of offences compoundable by the parties themselves without the intervention of the court. However, offences against the public at large, howsoever small they may be should not be compoundable.
10. On an examination of the list of offences in the Table to sub-section (2) of section 320 (offences compoundable with the permission of the court), we are of the view that the following offences be deleted from that Table and be included in the Table to sub-section (1) of section 320. In other words, those offences be made compoundable by the parties without the permission of the court:
Section 324: Voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons. Section 325: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt.
Section 335: Voluntarily causing grievous hurt on grave and sudden provocation.
Section 343: Wrongfully confining a person for three days or more.
Section 344: Wrongfully confining for ten or more days.
Section 346: Wrongfully confining a person in secret.
Section 379: Theft, irrespective of the value of property.
Section 403: Dishonest misappropriation of property.
Section 406: Criminal breach of trust, irrespective of the value of property.
Section 407: Criminal breach of trust by a carrier, wharfinger, etc. irrespective of the value of property.
Section 411: Dishonestly receiving stolen property, knowing it to be stolen, irrespective of the value of property.
Section 414: Assisting in the concealment or disposal of stolen property, knowing it to be stolen irrespective of the value of property.
Section 417: Cheating.
Section 419: Cheating by personation.
Section 421: Fraudulent removal or concealment of property, etc. to prevent distribution among creditors.
Section 422: Fraudulently preventing from being made available for his creditors a debt or demand due to the offender.
Section 423: Fraudulent execution of deed of transfer containing false statement of consideration.
Section 424: Fraudulent removal of concealment of property.
Section 428: Mischief by killing or maiming animal of the value of ten rupees or upwards.
Section 429: Mischief by killing or maiming cattle, etc., of any value or any other animal irrespective of its value.
Section 430: Mischief by injury to work of irrigation wrongfully diverting water when the only loss of damage caused is loss or damage to a private person.
Section 451: House-trespass to commit an offence (other than theft) punishable with imprisonment.
Section 482: Using a false trade or property mark.
Section 483: Counterfeiting a trade or property mark used by another. Section 486: Knowingly selling, or exposing or possessing for sale or for manufacturing purpose, goods marked with a counterfeit property mark.
11. It was also suggested by senior police officers at the various workshops that the Code of Criminal Procedure should empower the investigating officer to compound offences, which are compoundable, at the investigation stage and make a report to the magistrate who will give effect to the composition of such offences. This step will reduce the number of cases proceeding for trial at the threshold stage itself and relieve the court docket to a great extent.
In fact the National Police Commission in its Fourth Report had suggested that it would help quicker disposal of cases in the compoundable category if the procedure is amended to empower the police officers to take note of the desire of the parties for the compounding of offences from the stage of investigation and thereupon close cases and report the matter to the court which will have the authority to pass initial order from the police report as in every other case in which the police submit their report.
12. It may be pointed out that clause 20 of 1994 Bill has inserted the following new sub-section (3A) to section 173 to give effect to the recommendations of the National Police Commission: