To quash the proceedings under Section 304-A solely on the basis of a settlement or compromise arrived at between the accused and the legal representatives is not permissible and militates against all canons of justice, the Bench said.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that criminal proceedings against an accused under Section 304 cannot be quashed by invoking inherent powers under Section 482 of Criminal Procedure Code on the basis of settlement/compromise arrived at between the accused and the legal heirs/representatives of the person who has lost his life in the accident. The division bench comprising of Justices Mahesh Grover and Lisa Gill also observed that the offence under Section 304-A IPC is not private in nature and answered the reference to it in negative.
SECTION 304A IPC NOT PRIVATE IN NATURE
Dismissing the argument that Section 304A IPC is private in nature, the bench said “It would indeed be paradoxical and incorrect to hold that the offence Under Section 304-A is private in nature. Its serious impact on society is not subject to understatement. When a person or persons lose their life/lives due to the rash and negligent act of the accused, the question of mens rea or intention in such a situation pales into insignificance. The wrong cannot be termed to be private or personal in nature like offences arising out of matrimony, relating to dowry etc., family disputes or criminal cases having overwhelmingly and predominantly a civil flavour like commercial, financial, mercantile, civil or partnership matters.”
CANNOT BE QUASHED ON THE BASIS OF SETTLEMENT
Referring to a recent judgment of the Apex Court in State of Punjab v. Saurabh Bakshi, the court said “To say that Courts should not hesitate to intervene in favour of the accused in such cases is indeed a dangerous proposition with a potential to provide an impetus to a proclavity on the part of the drivers to continue with their rash and negligent act buoyed by the thought that they would get away with the crime by affording sufficient compensation to the victim's legal representatives. Once it has been authoritatively held by the Supreme Court that even grant of compensation under Section 357 (3) Cr. P.C. is not to be regarded as a mitigating circumstance to reduce the sentence imposed and neither can it be a substitute for an adequate sentence in all cases, it cannot be held that in cases where the matter is settled with the legal heirs of the deceased by giving adequate compensation, the proceedings should be quashed.”
Read the Judgment here.