Report No. 237
3. Related Reports of the Law Commission and the Legislative Changes Made
3.1 In the old Criminal Procedure Code of 1898, Section 345 dealt with the compounding of offences. Sub-section (1) thereof listed 22 offences under the IPC which could be compounded by the aggrieved party without the permission of the Court and Sub-section (2) enumerated 32 other offences which might also be compounded, but with the permission of the Court. The Law Commission, in its 41st Report, addressed the topic of compounding of offences in Chapter 24.
According to the Commission, "The broad principle that forms the basis of the present scheme is that where the offence is essentially of a private nature and relatively not serious, it is compoundable". The Commission was against the formulation of a general rule that all offences which are punishable with the maximum imprisonment of three years or so shall be compoundable. Though it had the virtue of definiteness, it would not be 'suitable', it was pointed out. The Commission rightly observed:
"It is, in our opinion, better to have clear and specific provisions such as those contained in section 345 than a general rule which is likely to lead to different interpretations". The Commission then rejected a suggestion that the law should be simplified requiring permission of the Court in every case instead of maintaining two classifications. The Commission was not in favour of liberally enlarging the list of compoundable offences.
The Commission rejected the suggestion to include the offences under Sections 143, 147, 209, 210, 279, 304A, 326, 347, 380, 456, 457 and 495 by observing that "Public peace, order and security are matters in which society is vitally interested and offences which jeopardize them ought to be suitably punished by the courts." It is doubtful whether all those offences referred to by the Commission (vide paragraph 24.69) substantially affect public peace or security.
The Commission then recommended that Section 354 of IPC (assault on woman with intent to outrage her modesty), Section 411 (dishonesty receiving stolen property), and Section 414 (assisting in the concealment or disposal of stolen property), should be compoundable provided the value of property in relation to Sections 411 and 414 was not more than Rs. 250.
However, the Commission expressed the view that the offence of unlawful compulsory labour punishable under Section 374 IPC should not be compoundable. The above recommendations of the Law Commission i.e., the addition of three offences and the omission of Section 374 IPC from the list of compoundable offences were reflected in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
3.2 In the new Code of 1973, there were 21 offences in the first Table and in the second Table, there were 36 offences making up the total of the compoundable offences 57 as against 54 in the old Code. One offence i.e. Section 374 IPC, was omitted and three offences specified in Sections 354, 411 and 414 were added to the list of compoundable offences in the Code of I973, based on the suggestions of Law Commission (41st Report).
Further, in the new CrPC, Section 500 IPC finds place in both the sub-sections/Tables of Section 320. Defamation against the President, Vice- President, Governor or a Minister in respect of his conduct in the discharge of public duties, if instituted on the complaint made by Public Prosecutor, is compoundable only with the permission of Court. The other defamations are retained in Table I.
3.3 In the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 2005 (Act No. 25 of 2005 effective from 23.06.2006), Section 324 IPC (causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means), which by all relevant standards qualify as a compoundable offence, was omitted. The Law Commission in its 154th Report (1996) had recommended that the said offence (along with others) might be shifted to the Table under sub-section (1) so that it could be compounded without the Court's permission.
However, the law Commission in its 177th Report recommended its retention in the Table under Sub- Section (2). But, without any good reason, the said offence was altogether omitted from the list of compoundable offences. With the deletion of Section 324 IPC by the Amendment Act of 2005, the number of compoundable offences stood at 56 i.e. 21 in the first Table and 35 in the second Table as against 57 (21+36) earlier.
3.4 The next amendment Act relating to CrPC was of the year 2009 (Act 5 of 2009). The Tables forming part of Section 320 (1) and (2) underwent certain changes. In order to give effect to the recommendations of the Law Commission in its 154th Report as well as 177th Report, a number of offences in the second Table (falling under sub-section (2) of Section 320) were transferred to the first Table.
Further, the value of property stolen etc. as specified in relation to Sections 379, 381, 406, 407, 408, 411 has been omitted. Another important change that was made was the deletion of Section 354 IPC from the list of compoundable offences. Section 354 (assault of woman with intent to outrage her modesty) which was included in the Table under Section 320 (2) of the new Code pursuant to the recommendation in the 41st Report of the Law Commission was deleted by Act 5 of 2009.
Presently, it is no longer a compoundable offence. Section 312 IPC (causing miscarriage) was included in the Table under Section 320(2) as per the recommendation made in the 154th Report. Thus, after the CrPC (Amendment) Act, 2008 (Act 5 of 2009) which came into effect on 31st December, 2009, the number of compoundable offences in CrPC, 1973 stands at 56 i.e. 43 in the Table under Section 320 (1) and 13 in the Table under Section 320 (2).
3.5 In the 154th Report, there was a recommendation of the Law Commission that the scope of sub-section (3) of Section 320 CrPC should be amplified so as to include the cases of the accused who are constructively liable under Section 34 or under Section 149 IPC. This had been accepted by the Legislature and sub-section (3) was amended. In this context, we are presently making the recommendation for making the offence of criminal conspiracy under Section 120-B IPC as compoundable provided it relates to other compoundable offences and to amend sub-section (3) of Section 320 accordingly.
3.6 There is one more important recommendation in the 154th report of the Law Commission which we would like to advert to. The Commission in para 11 of Chapter XII observed thus:
"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."
The Law Commission felt that such a provision will have a salutary effect and will check abuse by the police.
3.7 In order to give effect to the recommendation of the National Police Commission, the 1994 (CrPC) Amendment Bill proposed adding of sub-section (3A) to Section 173 of CrPC in the following terms:
"If, however, in respect of offences enumerated in the Table in section 320, in the course of investigation, the person by whom the offence may be compounded under the said section gives a report in writing to the officer in charge of the police station expressing his desire to compound the offence as provided for in the said section, the officer shall mention this fact in the police report prescribed in sub-section 2(1) and forward the compounding report from the person concerned to the Magistrate who shall thereupon deal with the case under section 320 as though the prosecution for the offence concerned had been launched before the Magistrate."
However, this proposed amendment did not take shape, though the Law Commission, in its 177th Report, reiterated the recommendation made in the 154th Report in this regard.