This article is written by Arryan Mohanty, a student from Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur. The article describes compoundable and non-compoundable offences and provisions related to them in India. It also differentiates between compoundable and non-compoundable offences. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


Crime, which is typically described as an unlawful act, omission, or activity, exists in every society, and so do the criminal laws. The basic goal of these criminal laws is to keep society safe by punishing lawbreakers, which must be done with due consideration to equity, justice, and fair play. To establish the accused’s guilt fairly and reasonably, a trial procedure is set up. An offence is a violation of a rule or legislation that is subject to legal repercussions. It comes from the Latin word “offendere,” which means to strike repeatedly and is thought to be an evil deed. An “offence” is defined under Section 2(n) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. A criminal or illegal activity that is penalised by the law is called an offence. Three categories of offences are recognised by the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973. Using policy-making as a guide, lawmakers divided offences into three groups based on their nature. The first two are cognisable offences and non-cognisable offences, the second is an offence that is eligible for bail and one that is not; and the third is an offence that can be compounded and one that cannot. In this article, the author has tried to mention all the points of differentiation between the compoundable and non-compoundable offences by first understanding what they are along with their nature and all other aspects of the two.

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Difference between compoundable and non-compoundable offences


Compoundable offences 

Compoundable offences are those that can be remedied through an agreement between the parties. The wronged party receives some sort of payment or satisfaction in exchange for not pressing charges against the guilty. Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC) contains a list of the compoundable offences that are penalised under several provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. In the circumstances listed in Section 320(1), the composition is permitted without the court’s approval:

Where the court’s consent is not necessary

Trespassing, adultery, defamation, and other crimes can be compounded without the judge’s approval.

Where the court’s consent is necessary

More serious offences, including theft, assault, and criminal breach of trust, can only be resolved with the court’s approval.

The same court where the case’s prior trials were held must receive the application for compounding from parties who are ready to do so. If the charge is compounded in a way that is equivalent to how the accused would have been exonerated in a court trial, the accused is deemed to have been exonerated. The complainant must not receive any consideration that they are not entitled to, and the compromise must be genuine. It can also be described as an agreement reached by the parties wherein the victim, or the party who feels wronged, is given something in exchange for prosecuting the guilty. A list of compoundable offences that are punished under a different Section of the IPC is provided in Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

Even if an offence is compoundable under Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Supreme Court concluded in Bhagyan Das v. The State of Uttarakhand & Anr. (2019) that a court has the discretion to refuse a motion to compound an offence with social consequence. Merely because an offence is punishable by more than one punishment under Section 320 CrPC, the court may exercise discretion concerning the offence’s character.

It was determined in Madan Mohan Abbot v. State of Punjab (2008) that in compounding offences in situations where the dispute at issue is completely personal, the court should normally recognise the terms of compromise even in criminal proceedings, as keeping the case alive with no prospect of result in favour of the prosecution is a luxury that the courts, grossly overburdened as they are, can’t afford, and that the time so saved can be used to decide more effective and efficient procedures.

It is very obvious from Section 320(9) of the Criminal Procedure Code that offences not covered by this Section are not compoundable. It means that, other than this provision, there is no effect of compromise on the criminal culpability of the offence.

In the case of Mahesh Chand v. State of Rajasthan (1988), the Supreme Court did, however, approve compounding the offence under Section 307 of the IPC (attempt to commit murder). In Ram Lal v State of J&K (1999),  the Supreme Court overturned its judgement in the Mahesh Chand case and concluded that an offence that the law proclaims to be non-compoundable, even with the court’s approval, cannot be compoundable at all.

The compounding of an offence under Section 320 of the CrPC has the impact of clearing the accused who committed the offence, as stated in Section 320(8) of the CrPC. Compounding an offence essentially results in the denial of the charges levied against the accused. No matter if the FIR was filed or the trial had started, as long as the offence was compounded with the court’s approval, the offender is free from all charges. In Kulwinder Singh v. State of Punjab & Another (2022), the Punjab and Harayana High Court ruled that the petitioner’s conviction and sentence were overturned as well as the offences under Sections 406 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code about them. 

Non-compoundable offences 

Non-compoundable offences cannot be amended; instead, they must be overturned through a full trial. These offences are more grave and serious, having an impact on society as a whole rather than just the victim. The prohibition against compounding such offences stems from the concern that doing so would encourage significant offences to be tolerated in society. Because they violate public policy, non-compoundable offences are not eligible for settlement by a regular court. Since the offences that are not listed in Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code are regarded as non-compoundable offences, the list of offences under this is not exhaustive. These offences typically involve the willful infliction of great bodily harm, injury by a hazardous weapon, dishonest misappropriation, kidnapping or abduction with intent to kill, etc. 

In these kinds of situations, the topic of the complainant engaging in a compromise does not arise because the ‘State’, or the police, brought the case. A non-compoundable offence has an impact on both the private party and society. Typically, no compromise is allowed while committing a non-compoundable offence. Such an offence cannot be compounded, and the court lacks the authority to do so. Following a thorough trial, the defendant is either found not guilty or guilty based on the facts given.

In the Gian Singh case (2012), the Supreme Court ruled that high courts cannot dismiss criminal matters that are serious and heinous or that are related to the public interest. This decision applies to all criminal cases, except for those where a conviction for the crime is unlikely and prolonging the case would be damaging to the accused’s right to justice. Under Section 482 of the CrPC, the high courts have the authority to resolve private offences like dowry that result from family disputes or marriage. 

The Supreme Court had to decide whether the high courts could overturn an order concerning non-compoundable offences under Section 482 of the CrPC in the B.S. Joshi case (2003). It was decided that even if a matter concerning Section 482 couldn’t be compounded, the high courts could nevertheless exercise their authority to have it thrown out to serve the interests of the parties involved.

In the case of the State of Rajasthan v. Shambhu Kewat (2013), the Supreme Court noted that Section 320 of the CrPC grants courts the authority to combine offences of a criminal nature. According to Section 482, the high court has the authority to consider relevant evidence and establish views to uphold the goals of justice, the result of which could be an exoneration or dismissal of the accusation. 

In the case of Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab (1947), the high courts were given the authority to dismiss non-compoundable criminal cases when the parties were willing to settle while acting as per Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. However, when using such force, extreme caution has to be taken. In the end, this case resulted in the Supreme Court setting specific criteria for rescinding the criminal proceedings by the high court that were of a non-compoundable type.

Nature of offence

Compoundable offences

Compoundable offences must have the following characteristics to qualify: 

  • The crime must not be particularly serious to qualify as a compoundable offence.
  • Typically, the crimes should be kept hidden. Private offences are ones that negatively affect a person’s identity or competence. Such offences shouldn’t be against the state’s well-being or hurt the broader public in any way.

Rape, murder, and other horrific crimes cannot be compounded because of how serious they are.

According to the ruling in Shankar Yadav v. the State of Chattisgarh (2017), an offence punishable under Section 323 of the Indian Penal Code may be compounded under Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code by the person who suffers the injury, and an offence punishable under Section 325 of the IPC may be compounded under Section 320(2) of the CrPC with the permission of the court by the person who suffers the injury using dangerous weapons.

Non-compoundable offences

While hearing the case of Narinder Singh, the following guidelines were made: If the offences implicated are primarily of a civil and commercial nature, the high court may exercise its authority under Section 482 of the CrPC to dismiss criminal proceedings of a non-compoundable nature.

Serious offences 

The offences under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code that are grave and heinous and have an effect on society are not quashed by the High Court.

Section 307 of the IPC

Only when there is sufficient proof to support it on many criteria can these high courts invalidate an offence under Section 307 that is categorised as heinous, serious, and against society. The gathered evidence cannot be used while the matter is being investigated; instead, it must be submitted with the charge sheet or charges that have been formulated and/or during the trial.

The high courts were initially unwilling to approve any agreement between the parties on non-compoundable offences. In the case of Narinder Singh, the Supreme Court gradually provided the necessary regulations about the civil nature of the offence, its severity, Section 307, specific laws, the offence’s history or the conduct of the offender. Even in cases involving offences that are not compoundable, the High Court may approve mutual settlement using the authority granted by Section 482. Compounding of offences is permitted for those that are not too serious, do not jeopardise society or the public, and may cause irreparable harm. Even if courts permit such compounding and learn that it was founded on unfounded assertions, they are given the authority to reverse the judgement.

Special Statutes

The high court may not annul criminal offences that were reported following different statutes or where a public worker committed the offence while performing official duties.


In cases of non-compoundable criminal offences where the offence before the high court is private, the courts must take the antecedent or conduct of the accused into account when evaluating the compromise between the parties under Section 482 of the CrPC.

Legal provisions dealing with compoundable offences

Under criminal law

As mentioned earlier, the CrPC discusses compoundable offences under Section 320. The offences under the IPC that can be committed by their survivors are defined in this Section. The ‘compounding of an offence’ refers to an agreement struck by both parties in a case. As a result, both parties may compound certain IPC offences that are expressly enumerated in Section 320 of the CrPC.

Any person who is entitled to commit a crime under Section 320 of the CrPC may do so with the approval of the High Court under Section 401 of the CrPC or a court of session under Section 399 of the CrPC acting in the course of its revising power. The abetment of such behaviour or even an attempt to engage in such behaviour (if such an attempt in and of itself constitutes a crime), or when the accused person is liable under Sections 34 or 149 of the IPC, will also be compounded in the same manner whenever an act is punishable under Section 320 of the CrPC. Compounding can only be done after filing a case file under Section 173(2) of the CrPC and not earlier. However, this is not specifically stated in Section 320(1) of the CrPC. However, Section 320(2) of the CrPC appears to indicate the same thing, as it states, “with the agreement of the court before which any prosecution for this kind of offence is already proceeding.” The question would be whether, during the investigative stage, the offences included in compoundable criminal issues might be compounded before the filing of a case file under Section 173(2) of the CrPC.

According to the general rule inherent in subsection (3), when any crime is compoundable under Section 320 of the Code, the aiding and abetting of that crime or an effort to commit that crime (when such an attempt is itself a crime) may be compounded likewise. No composition for the offence shall be permitted without the permission of the court to which he is committed or, as the case may be, before which the appeal is to be heard. According to Subsection (5) of Section 320, when the accused has been committed for trial or when he has been convicted and an appeal is pending, the same court where the trial is being held must hear requests to compound the offence.

There is a cap on how many offences can be compounded, according to subsection (7). No offence shall be compounded, according to the law, if the accused is already facing an extended sentence or another type of penalty for the same offence due to a prior conviction. It stipulates that no offence may be amended unless expressly permitted under Section 320 of the Code.

In Mahalovya Gauba v. State of Punjab and Others (2021), the Court ruled that criminal proceedings involving compoundable offences are divided into two categories: settlement of criminal offences without the Court’s consent under Section 320(1) of the CrPC, and settlement of criminal offences with the court’s approval under Section 320(2) of the CrPC. As per the ruling, both types of compoundable criminal proceedings—those that can be heard by the Lok Adalat with or without the court’s permission under Section 320(1) of the CrPC and those that can be heard by the court with or without permission under Section 320(2) of the CrPC—will be able to do so.

In the case of Surendra Nath Mohanty v. the State of Orissa (1999), a three-judge Supreme Court bench ruled that a full mechanism is available under Section 320 of the CrPC for the compounding of the charges mentioned under the IPC. Additionally, Section 320(2) stipulates that the complainant may, with the court’s approval, settle the charges listed in the list. But Section 320(9) makes it clear that “no action shall be settled unless as permitted by Section 320 of the CrPC.”

Under Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987

According to Section 19(5) of the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, the Lok Adalat has the power to consider and reach an agreement between the parties to a dispute over any matter linked to a crime that is punishable under any law.

Under Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999

Any violation of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999‘s rules, laws, orders, notices, or directives is deemed a violation of the Act. Such offences are compounded by willingly acknowledging the violation, admitting guilt, and demanding restitution. Any infringement stated in Section 13 of the FEMA Act may be compounded by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

Under the Companies Act, 2013

If a criminal under the Companies Act of 2013 is compoundable, the directors may apply to have the offence compounded rather than permit the start of procedures when one was committed, a rule was broken, or a failure or delay occurred. The compounding of offences is addressed in Section 441 of the Act. According to Section 441(1), a crime that is only punished by a fine may be compounded.

Compounding of non-compoundable offences

When a crime is civil in nature, only the victim is harmed, and as a result, only the victim is entitled to compensation. However, when a crime is considered to be criminal, it has an impact on the entire society, and the offender must be punished to instil fear. This is the basis for the non-compoundability of the majority of criminal offences. Only the less serious and significant offences that have less impact on society can be compounded. 

The Supreme Court has set forth appropriate rules to invalidate criminal offences by the high court and has been cautious in determining whether criminal cases are to be of a compoundable type. In the case of Rameshchandra J. Thakkar v. A.P. Jhaveri (1972), the Supreme Court had established that if an offence was compounded and it later emerged that the compounding was illegal, the High Court could reverse the acquittal by exercising its revisionary authority. Additionally, the High Court has the authority to reverse an acquittal granted on improper grounds to a non-compoundable defendant.

Difference between the powers granted under Section 320 and Section 482

The list of offences that can be compounded by the court is provided under Section 320 of the CrPC. The High Court is empowered by Section 482 to issue any order that it thinks necessary to: give effect to the decisions made under the CrPC; stop the misuse of any court’s procedures; or serve other justifications.

The Supreme Court requested that high courts refrain from dismissing criminal cases that are particularly serious or heinous or when the public’s interest is at stake. Contrarily, the procedures may be annulled by the HC when the offence is civil, the harm is personal, and the matter is settled amicably between the parties. 

However, even if the offence does not fall under the category of compoundable offences, the high court may dismiss the case if a conviction is not possible and the parties are willing to resolve the dispute amicably.

The authority exerted under Section 320, which states that compoundable offences can be executed immediately and without additional authorization being required, distinguishes it from Section 482. However, the authority granted under Section 482 to revoke any criminal offences that are not on the list of compoundable offences must be used with caution and applied under careful investigation. It is the judges’ painstaking task to make sure that all the requisite conditions are met and to decide which matters are relevant enough to be compounded or not.

Need for offences to be categorised as compoundable and non-compoundable

Given that committing a crime cannot be made up financially or commercially, the idea that it may be committed again and again seems a little ludicrous. Instead of just financial loss, it is the pain that the victim experiences in their mind or body. When the victim’s loss is compensable, the problem of compromise typically comes up. 

A crime is primarily an injustice committed against society as opposed to an individual. The goal of criminal law is to punish the accused or wrongdoer’s criminal mindset rather than simply punishing him physically. After receiving their penalty, the guilty party should never again consider committing the same crimes. Criminal law is founded on the fundamental concept that while tens of thousands of criminals may escape the clutches of justice, not a single innocent person shall be imprisoned.

The rule that no innocent person shall be imprisoned is a cornerstone of criminal law. This rule allows thousands of offenders to escape punishment. Because of this, certain crimes are permitted to be compounded, easing the strictness of the law. In certain situations, the wrongdoer’s criminality is minimal or non-existent. These offences are covered under Criminal Procedure Code Sections 320(1) and (2).

While concentrating on the minute variations between the clauses contained in Sections 320 and 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, it is important to remember that the powers under S.320 can be used immediately in all situations that fall within the umbrella of compoundable offences. No further permissions are needed because they are specified in the Code as required provisions.

However, Section 482 of the CrPC gives the high courts inherent authority. These should only be used sparingly and cautiously. If any clause relates to the inherent character of authority, it must be understood that the purpose of the legislation is to require that such powers be used carefully, cautiously, and wisely. This discretion should be utilised sparingly because inherent power implies that the courts do use their discretion to some extent, subject to certain restrictions. The said provision should be interpreted using the principle of purposeful construction.

It indicates that imprisoning the accused for a longer amount of time may result in irreparable injustice if the circumstances of the case are not extremely risky, terrible, or jeopardising public life or society. Even if the case falls under the purview of the non-compoundable list, the courts have the authority to halt the trial court proceedings and direct that it be compounded.

Therefore, it is necessary to classify compoundable and non-compoundable offences to ensure that everyone receives justice and to stop all forms of injustice. 

Difference between compoundable and non-compoundable offences 

Point of differentiationCompoundable offencesNon-compoundable offences
Nature of offenceThe nature of a compoundable offence is less serious.The nature of the offence is serious in non-compoundable offences.
CompoundabilityThe accused may have the accusations against them dropped in a compoundable offence.The accusations made against the accused cannot be dropped in a non-compoundable offence.
Parties InvolvedA private individual is the only one who is impacted by a compoundable offence.The non-compoundable offences have an impact on both the individual and society as a whole.
court’s approvalSettlements for compoundable offences may be made with or without the court’s approval.When an offence is not compoundable, it can only be quashed; it cannot be compounded.
Filing of the caseCases involving compoundable offences are often brought by a private individual.Cases are brought by the state for offences that are not compoundable.
Whether the charges can be dropped or not?Charges against the accused may be dropped with the consent of the party that is wronged.The accused cannot have the charges against them dropped.
Trial after settlement When a settlement is reached, an accused who has committed a compoundable offence may be declared free and there is no need for a new trial.Non-compoundable offences need a complete trial, which will find the accused innocent or guilty based on the evidence.
Justification of the DIfferentiationCompoundable offences are justified by the idea that because they are not very serious, the accused may get leniency.The justification for this is that the accused cannot get away without punishment because the deed was so horrible and unlawful.

Reasons behind the recent decriminalisation of compoundable offences 

Compounding offences operate under the decriminalisation principle because it clears the accused of the charges. Decriminalisation is the method of altering the law so that a person’s behaviour is no longer regarded as unlawful. The perpetrator may have paid the complainant back, or the parties’ attitudes toward one another may have entirely changed. The complainant, after being shocked and repented by the perpetrator, is willing to overlook his improper behaviour. To recognise these situations and to give a way to cease criminal investigations for particular sorts of offences, criminal law must be changed. This is the justification for compounding offences. The victim may have received compensation from the offender, or the parties’ perceptions of one another may have changed for the better.

The question of which offences should or should not be termed compulsive is one that politicians frequently face. The issue has been looked at from a variety of perspectives, the benefits and drawbacks have been evaluated, and a sane choice has been made. In general, it is not permitted to compromise crimes that jeopardise state security or have a significant impact on the community. Furthermore, compounding is not an option for significant offences. The criminal is declared innocent when the offence is compounded, and the court loses jurisdiction over the case.


Based on the nature of the offences under Schedule I, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC), the procedural criminal code of India, divides the offences into these major categories. Serious offences can be classified as cognizable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable, whereas less serious offences fall into the non-cognizable, bailable, and compoundable categories. In essence, it can be said that compoundable offences are those in which criminal liability begins to accrue at the point of compromise, while non-compoundable offences are those in which compromise is impossible or in which criminal culpability continues even after the offender has compromised. However, the court considers the fact of compromise decided when determining the sentence’s length.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Under which section of the CrPC do the high courts have inherent powers?

The inherent authority of the high court to stop misuse of any court’s procedure or to uphold the interests of justice is preserved under Section 482. The clause does not grant any new authority. It only acknowledges and upholds the high court’s inherent powers.

Where can a victim apply for an offence to be compounded?

The court where the case was initially tried must receive the request for settlement from parties who are willing to compound. In the high court or the Supreme Court, compounding may also be allowed during an appeal or review case.

Can the court vacate the compounding decision?

The courts have the power to overturn a verdict if they approve a settlement between the parties and later learn that it was based on false assumptions.


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