In a first of its kind, the Supreme Court bench of Justices Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Rohinton Fali Nariman, permitted on March 1 compounding of the offence of causing hurt during robbery which is punishable with life imprisonment as the maximum sentence.
Although the compounding of non-compoundable offences, that is, offences not listed under Section 320 of Cr.P.C., by the High Courts and the Supreme Court is common, it is perhaps for the first time, that the Court has permitted compounding of an offence against the society.
“In order to meet certain unusual situations, this Court has from time to time taken recourse to innovations and the powers vested in it under Article 142 of the Constitution, in order to give a quietus to a litigation demanding a pragmatic solution”, the bench noted in its order.
The appellant, Unnikrishnan @ Unnikuttan was convicted for an offence punishable under Section 394 of the IPC, and sentenced to three years rigorous imprisonment. The High Court of Kerala at Ernakulam, reduced his sentence from three to two years RI. During the hearing of his SLP in the Supreme Court, the compromise between the parties was reached, and an application for permission to compound the offences under Section 320 Cr.P.C. was filed.
This landed the Supreme Court in a dilemma, as Section 394 IPC is not listed as an offence which could be compounded under Section 320 Cr.P.C., and there was no direct legal precedent either, for it. All the instances of compounding, when the Court struck a balance between the rigidity of law and doing substantial justice to the parties, were with regard to compounding other non-compoundable offences, which are not against the society.
In several cases, the Supreme Court has held that non-compoundable offences can be compounded on the basis of settlements between private parties, and on a compromise between the offender and the victim. But the Court had made it clear that crimes against the society could not be compounded.
Even in a recent case, the Court did not approve of compounding of a non-compoundable offence by the High Court, because it felt that it would imply judicial overreach.
In its March 1 order, the bench cited a few legal precedents wherein the Court, while imposing the fine amount, reduced the sentence to the period already undergone, or reduced the sentence imposed while maintaining the conviction, in view of the compromise arrived at.
This is the first time the Court specifically allowed the application seeking permission to compound the offence under Section 394 IPC, taking into account the settlement arrived at between the parties.
Read the order here.