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Report No. 237

Compounding of (IPC) Offences

1. Introduction

1.1 The Supreme Court of India in the case of Ramgopal v. State of M.P., (1894) 21 ILR 103 at 112, in a brief order, observed thus:

"There are several offences under the IPC that are currently non-compoundable. These include offences punishable under Section 498-A, Section 326, etc. of the IPC. Some of such offences can be made compoundable by introducing a suitable amendment in the statute. We are of the opinion that the Law Commission of India could examine whether a suitable proposal can be sent to the Union Government in this regard.

Any such step would not only relieve the courts of the burden of deciding cases in which the aggrieved parties have themselves arrived at a settlement, but may also encourage the process of re-conciliation between them. We, accordingly, request the Law Commission and the Government of India to examine all these aspects and take such steps as may be considered feasible".

Again, the same learned Judges in an Order Dated 18th August 2010 passed later in Crl. Appeal No. 433 of 2004 (Diwaker Singh v. State of Bihar) made similar observations which are extracted hereunder:

"Further, we are of the opinion that Section 324 IPC and many other offences should be made compoundable. We have already referred to the Law Commission of India and the Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India our suggestion that suitable amendments should be made in the Code of Criminal Procedure for making several offences which are presently treated as non-compoundable under Section 320 CrPC as compoundable. This will greatly reduce the burden of the courts.

The Law Commission of India and the Ministry of Law & Justice, Government of India may also examine this suggestion. The Law Commission may also examine several other provisions of the Indian Penal Code and other statutes in order to recommend that they may also be made compoundable even if they are presently non-compoundable."

Pursuant to these observations of the Supreme Court, the Law Commission of India embarked on the task of identifying appropriate offences which could be added to the list of compoundable offences under Section 320 of the CrPC. The present exercise is only confined to the offences made punishable under Indian Penal Code.

1.2 Compounding in the context of criminal law means forbearance from the prosecution as a result of an amicable settlement between the parties. As observed by Calcutta High Court in a vintage decision in Murray1, compounding of an offence signifies "that the person against whom the offence has been committed has received some gratification, not necessarily of a pecuniary character, to act as an inducement of his desiring to abstain from a prosecution".

The victim may have received compensation from the offender or the attitude of the parties towards each other may have changed for good. The victim is prepared to condone the offensive conduct of the accused who became chastened and repentant. Criminal law needs to be attuned to take note of such situations and to provide a remedy to terminate the criminal proceedings in respect of certain types of offences.

That is the rationale behind compounding of offences. Incidentally, the compounding scheme relieves the courts of the burden of accumulated cases. The listing of offences compoundable is something unique to the Indian Criminal Law. The State's prosecuting agency is not involved in the process of compounding.

1. (1894) 21 ILR 103 at 112.

1.3 Which offences should or should not be made compoundable is always an enigma for the law-makers. The problem has to be considered from different perspectives and the pros and cons are to be weighed and a rational view has to be taken. Broadly speaking, the offences which affect the security of the State or having a serious impact on the society at large ought not to be permitted to be compounded. So also, crimes of grave nature shall not be the subject-matter of compounding.

The policy of law on compoundability of offences is complex and no straightjacket formula is available to reach the decision. A holistic and not an isolated approach is called for in identifying the compoundable and non-compoundable offences. The interest of victims of crimes and the societal interest in the conviction of the offender often clash and this makes the job of law-makers more complex.

That the Courts are flooded with cases and, therefore, more and more offences should be identified for compoundability is only a secondary consideration. Primarily, what needs to be taken into account is the nature, magnitude and consequences of the crime.

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