This Article is written by Diganth Raj Sehgal, Student, School of Law, Christ University, Bangalore. The author in this article has discussed the inherent powers of the High Courts and the scope and extent of Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The author also discusses the importance of the section and gives recent case laws to determine the current position of law.
Section 482, under the 37th Chapter of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, titled ‘Miscellaneous’ deals with Inherent powers of the Court. The code under this section lays out the provisions for quashing of criminal proceedings. Section 482 of CrPC states;
“Saving of inherent powers of High Court- Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.“
This Section deals with such a power of the high court which is essential to it or which is its characteristic attribute. The section allows the court to pass any order so as to ensure justice. It also gives the court power to quash the proceedings of lower court or to quash FIRs. According to Black’s law dictionary, quash means ‘to overthrow or abate or vacate or make void’. In other words, quashing of criminal proceedings means putting an end to the legal machinery which was set into motion by the filing of an FIR or Complaint.
Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. is an exact reproduction of Section 561- A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898. It was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 1923 as the High Courts were unable to render complete justice even in the cases where illegality was apparent. The inherent powers of the High Court as provided under Section 561 – A of the 1898 Code was vested in the High Court in accordance with Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
The procedure for invoking the inherent powers is regulated by rules framed by the High Court and the power to make such rules is conferred on the High Court by the Constitution.
Powers of the High Court under section 482 CR.P.C?
Inherent powers under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. include powers to quash FIR, investigation or any criminal proceedings pending before the High Court or any Courts subordinate to it and are of wide magnitude and ramification. Such powers can be exercised to secure ends of justice, prevent abuse of the process of any court and to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, depending upon the facts of a given case. The court can always take note of any miscarriage of justice and prevent the same by exercising its powers u/s 482 of Cr.P.C. These powers are neither limited nor curtailed by any other provisions of the Code. However, such inherent powers are to be exercised sparingly and with caution.
It is well settled that the inherent powers under section 482 can be exercised only when no other remedy is available to the litigant and NOT where a specific remedy is provided by the statute. If an effective alternative remedy is available, the High Court will not exercise its powers under this section, especially when the applicant may not have availed of that remedy.
The High Courts in deciding matters under Section 482 should be guided by following twin objectives, as laid down in Narinder Singh v. State of Punjab (2014) 6 SCC 466:
- Prevent abuse of the process of the court.
- Secure the ends of justice.
- To give effect to an order under the Code.
Why the need for Section 482 CR.P.C?
The powers of the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C are partly administrative and partly judicial. The section was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 1923, as the High Courts were unable to render complete justice even if in a given case the illegality was palpable and apparent.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in State of Karnataka v. Muniswamy AIR 1977 SC 1489, held that the section envisages 3 circumstances in which the inherent jurisdiction may be exercised, namely, “to give effect to an order under CrPC, to prevent abuse of the process of the court, and to secure the ends of justice“.
The Hon’ble Allahabad High Court went on to state that, “The section is a sort of reminder to the High Courts that they are not merely courts in law, but also courts of justice and possess inherent powers to remove injustice“.
The inherent power of the High Court is an inalienable attribute of the position it holds with respect to the courts subordinate to it. They are necessarily judicial when they are exercisable with respect to a judicial order and for securing the ends of justice. The jurisdiction under Section 482 is discretionary; therefore, the high court may refuse to exercise the discretion if a party has not approached it with clean hands.
Rules governing the petitions which pray for quashing of criminal proceedings
Section 482 of CrPC, which deals with the power of the court to quash criminal proceedings, hasn’t given the details of that what exactly constitutes the inherent power of the court. In that sense, the Code is very vague as it doesn’t lay out the grounds on which the foundations of the inherent power of court lay. Furthermore, there has been consistent inconsistency in the judgments of the Supreme Court of India with regard to the application of Section 482 of CrPC.
Consequently, the application of Section 482 of CrPC is a very agitated issue in litigation along with being a strongly debated concept in the legal academic circles. Nevertheless, there are some cases which have got wide acceptance in the legal fraternity and hence, are used as the minor guiding principles (landmark cases being the major ones) governing the cases of quashing of criminal proceedings. Some of these cases are:
1. Prashant Bharti v. State of NCT of Delhi (2013) 9 SCC 293
In order to determine the veracity of a prayer for quashing the criminal proceedings raised by an accused under Section 482 of the CrPC, the following questions were raised before the High Court. The court held that if the answer to all the following questions was in affirmative, then the Court should quash the proceedings by exercising its power under Section 482 of CrPC;
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sound, reasonable, and indubitable, i.e., the material is of sterling and impeccable quality?
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused is sufficient to reject and overrule the factual assertions contained in the complaint, i.e., the material is such, as would persuade a reasonable person to dismiss and condemn the factual basis of the accusations as false?
- Whether the material relied upon by the accused, has not been refuted by the prosecution/complainant; and/or the material is such, that it cannot be justifiably refuted by the prosecution/complainant?
- Whether proceeding with the trial would result in an abuse of process of the court and hence, would not serve the ends of justice?
2. Parbatbhai Ahir v. State of Gujarat (4 October 2017)
In this case, the Supreme Court referred to various precedents and summarised the following principles to govern the power of High Court under Section 482 of CrPC;
- Section 482 preserves the inherent powers of the High Court to prevent an abuse of the process of any court or to secure the ends of justice. The provision does not confer new powers. It only recognises and preserves powers which inhere in the High Court.
- The invocation of the jurisdiction of the High Court to quash a First Information Report or a criminal proceeding on the ground that a settlement has been arrived at between the offender and the victim is not the same as the invocation of jurisdiction for the purpose of compounding an offence. While compounding an offence, the power of the court is governed by the provisions of Section 320 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The power to quash under Section 482 is attracted even if the offence is non-compoundable.
- Informing an opinion whether a criminal proceeding or complaint should be quashed in exercise of its jurisdiction under Section 482, the High Court must evaluate whether the ends of justice would justify the exercise of the inherent power.
- While the inherent power of the High Court has a wide ambit and plenitude it has to be exercised;
- To secure the ends of justice.
- To prevent abuse of the process of any court.
- The decision as to whether a complaint or First Information Report should be quashed on the ground that the offender and victim have settled the dispute, revolves ultimately on the facts and circumstances of each case and no exhaustive elaboration of principles can be formulated.
- In the exercise of the power under section 482 and while dealing with a plea that the dispute has been settled, the High Court must have due regard to the nature and gravity of the offence. Heinous and serious offences involving mental depravity or offences such as murder, rape and dacoity cannot appropriately be quashed, even though the victim or the family of the victim, have settled the dispute. Such offences are, truly speaking, not private in nature but have a serious impact upon society. The decision to continue with the trial in such cases is founded on the overriding element of public interest in punishing persons for serious offences.
- As distinguished from serious offences, there may be criminal cases which have an overwhelming or predominant element of a civil dispute. They stand on a distinct footing in so far as the exercise of the inherent power to quash is concerned.
- Criminal cases involving offences which arise from a commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership or similar transactions with an essentially civil flavour may in appropriate situations fall for quashing where parties have settled the dispute.
- In such a case, the High Court may quash the criminal proceeding if in view of the compromise between the disputants, the possibility of a conviction is remote and the continuation of a criminal proceeding would cause oppression and prejudice
- There is yet an exception to the principle set out in propositions (viii) and above. Economic offences involving the financial and economic well-being of the state have implications which lie beyond the domain of a mere dispute between private disputants. The High Court would be justified in declining to quash where the offender is involved in an activity akin to financial or economic fraud or misdemeanour. The consequences of the act complained of upon the financial or economic system will weigh in the balance.”
Quashing of criminal proceedings in matrimonial cases (Cases filed under Section 498A)
The purpose of drafting Section 498A was to help the hapless women who were the worst victims and were harmed at the hands of their husbands. In the present times, there have been several instances where the section is misused. The situation became so severe that various non-government organizations (NGOs) came up for the purpose of advocating the repeal of Section 498.
The Supreme Court of India has, many a time, held that the proceedings being pursued under Section 498 – A of IPC ought to be quashed if the chances of conviction are very bleak or the case has been filed with ulterior motives. This is so because there are various cases where the purpose of the litigation is the ulterior motive of settling personal scores.
The following cases discuss quashing of proceedings in such matters;
- The Supreme Court of India observed in the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India (19 July 2005),
“…The object of the provision is the prevention of the dowry menace. But as has been rightly contended by the petitioner many instances have come to light where the complaints are not bona fide and have filed the cases with oblique motive. In such cases acquittal of the accused does not in all cases wipe out the ignominy suffered during and prior to trial. Sometimes adverse media coverage adds to the misery...”
- In B S Joshi v. State of Haryana 2003 (4) SCC 675 the Supreme Court justified the exercise of powers under Section 482 CrPC to quash the proceedings in matrimonial cases to secure the ends of justice in view of the special facts and circumstances of the case even where the offences alleged are non-compoundable.
- The judgment in B S Joshi v. State of Haryana was used by the Delhi High Court to quash criminal proceedings which had been initiated under Section 498 – A of the Indian Penal Code in the case of Girish Pandey v. State (20 October 2016).
- Furthermore, it was held in the case of Geeta Mehrotra v. State of Uttar Pradesh (17 October 2012) by the Supreme Court that making general allegations against husband without any conclusive proof is ground enough to quash criminal proceedings instituted under Section 498- A of IPC.
Test to determine whether the court can Interfere
Ordinarily, a High Court will not interfere at an interlocutory stage of a criminal proceeding in a subordinate court but the Court is under an obligation to interfere if there is harassment of any person (Indian citizen) by illegal prosecution. It would also do so when there are any exceptional or extraordinary reasons for doing so.
The Supreme Court, in Madhu Limaye v. Maharashtra, discussed that,
“Nothing in the Code, not even Section 397 can affect the amplitude of the inherent power preserved in Section 482. Where the impugned interlocutory order clearly brings about a situation which is an abuse of the process of the court then for the purpose of securing the ends of justice, interference by the High Court is absolutely necessary and nothing contained in Section 397 (2) can limit or affect the exercise of the inherent power of the High Court“
Further, the court in Madhu Limaye v. Maharashtra, also held that the following principles would govern the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction of the HC:
- Power is not to be resorted to if there is a specific provision in the code for the redress of grievances of the aggrieved party.
- It should be exercised sparingly to prevent abuse of process of any Court or otherwise to secure ends of justice.
- It should not be exercised against the express bar of the law engrafted in any other provision of the code.
- It can never be laid down more particularly or precisely when the High Court can and cannot use its powers, but attempts have been made on that behalf in several of the decisions of Supreme Court.
In the landmark case State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal, a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India considered in detail, the provisions of section 482 and the power of the High Court to quash criminal proceedings or FIR. The Supreme Court summarized the legal position by laying the following guidelines to be followed by High Courts in the exercise of their inherent powers to quash a criminal complaint:
- Where the allegations made in the FIR do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the FIR and other materials accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1)of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
- Where the allegations made in the FIR and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer, unless a Magistrate has issued an order for the same, as contemplated under Section 155(2)of the Code.
- Where the allegations made in the FIR are absurd to the extent that no prudent man can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
- Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act, under which a criminal proceeding is instituted, with regard to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and / or where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
- Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide intention and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and/or personal grudge.
Landmark cases related to the quashing of criminal proceedings Under Section 482
The following two cases are considered to be authorities on the subject of quashing of Criminal proceedings under Section 482. Despite all the contradicting judgements of the Supreme court on this matter, the following cases provide the most accepted views:
1. State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal 1992 AIR 604
The Supreme Court held that the judgment of the High Court whereby it quashed the First Information Report was not legally and factually sustainable in law and thus such quashing was set aside.
Further with respect to quashing the proceedings or First Information Reports, the Supreme Court laid down seven criteria. If the present case falls under any of the seven headings, then the High court can quash criminal proceedings.
The criteria laid down are a set of principles and acts as a test to determine if the court may quash the proceeding or not. The principle includes criteria such as; when the allegations in the FIR do not prima facie constitute any offence, or when the allegations do not disclose a cognizable offence which would justify an investigation by police officers, or when an allegations made in the FIR and the evidence collected do not disclose the commission of any offence, or if the offence constituted is non-cognizable, or if the allegations are absurd or such that a prudent man would not make or if the criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide intention or the person is maliciously prosecuted.
2. In the case of R P Kapur v. State of Punjab 1960 AIR 862
In this case, the Supreme Court discussed the three classes of cases under which the criminal proceedings against a person can be quashed. The classes are:
- Where there is a legal bar against institution or continuance of the criminal proceedings.
- Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute an offence, even if taken at face value and in their entirety.
- Where the allegations made constitute an offence, but there is no evidence which can prove them.
3. In the case of Narinder Singh v State of Punjab (2014)6 SCC 466
The Supreme Court observed that the timing of a settlement is significant in determining whether the jurisdiction under Section 482 should be exercised. The Court further stated that-
“those cases where the settlement is arrived at immediately after the alleged commission of the offence and the matter is still under investigation, the High Court may be liberal in accepting the settlement to quash the criminal proceedings/investigation. On the other hand, where the prosecution evidence is almost complete or after the conclusion of the evidence the matter is at the stage of argument, normally the High Court should refrain from exercising its power under Section 482 of the Code, as in such cases the trial court would be in a position to decide the case finally on merits…”
Limitations of the use of Section 482 of CR.P.C
The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 is very wide and so as to avoid abuse, it must be exercised sparingly and with caution. Further is the court invokes this section, it must be done only when such exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the section itself.
The Courts through the following cases laid down the limitations on the exercise of Section 482:
- In the case of Dr.Monica Kumar & Anr. v. State of Uttar Pradesh as well as many of the judgments of the Supreme Court, it has taken the view that Section 482 is to be exercised ex debito justitiae (as a matter of right) in a manner to ensure real and substantial justice, and the administration of justice is why courts exist.
- In a proceeding under Section 482, the High Court will not enter into any finding of facts, particularly when the matter has been concluded by the concurrent finding of facts. This was discussed in the following cases:
- In State of Bihar and another v. K.J.D. Singh, the Supreme Court discussed whether the Criminal Proceedings can be quashed even before the Commencement of the Trial and held that “The inherent power under Section 482 has to be exercised for the ends of the justice and should not be arbitrarily exercised to cut short the normal process of a criminal trial.”
- Pendian, J. in the case of Janta Dal v. H.S. Chowdhary deprecated the practice of staying criminal trials and police investigations except in exceptional cases and held that the present case was not one of these exceptional cases.
- In the case of R.P. Kapoor v. the State of Punjab, the Supreme court held that “Inherent power of the High Court cannot be invoked in regard to matters which are directly covered by specific provisions in the Cr.P.C.”.
- The inherent powers under Section 482 can be exercised by the court only if no other remedy is available to the litigant and if no specific remedy is provided by the statute. If an alternative remedy is available to the litigant then the court cannot exercise this power as long as the litigant has not availed that remedy.
- Lastly, the court cannot act as an investigating agency. In the case of Dineshbhai Chandubhai Patel v State of Gujarat, the Supreme court observed that the High court can neither act like an investigating agency nor exercise powers like an appellate court in order to examine if the factual contents of the FIR disclose any prima facie cognizable offences or not.
Current Position of Law (With Relevant Extracts from Recent Judgements)
“18. … It is a settled principle of law that the High court can exercise jurisdiction under Section 482 of Cr.P.C even when the discharge application is pending with the trial court. Indeed, it would be a travesty to hold that proceedings initiated against a person can be interfered with at the stage of FIR but not if it has advanced, and the allegations have materialized into a charge sheet. On the contrary, it could be said that the abuse of process caused by FIR stands aggravated if the FIR has taken the form of a charge sheet after investigation. The power is undoubtedly conferred to prevent abuse of process of the power of any court.”…..
“We are of the opinion that the present case falls under the 1st, 3rd and 5th category set out in the para 102 of the judgment in the case of Bhajan Lal (supra). In such a situation, the High Court erred in dismissing the petition of the Appellants filed under Section 482 of Cr.P.C This was a fit case for the High Court to exercise its inherent power under Section 482 of Cr.P.C to quash the FIR.
- It is necessary here to remember the words of this Court in State of Karnataka v. L. Muniswamy which read as follows
“7. …..In the exercise of this wholesome power, the High Court is entitled to quash a proceeding if it comes to the conclusion that allowing the proceeding to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court or that the ends of justice require that the proceeding ought to be quashed. The saving of the High Court’s inherent powers, both in civil and criminal matters, is designed to achieve a salutary public purpose which is that a court proceeding ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or persecution. In a criminal case, the veiled object behind a lame prosecution, the very nature of the material on which the structure of the prosecution rests and the like would justify the High Court in quashing the proceeding in the interest of justice…..”
- We have, therefore, no hesitation in quashing the FIR and the charge sheet filed against the Appellants. Hence, the FIR No. 0139/2014 dated 20.08.2014 and charge sheet dated 03.08.2018 are hereby quashed.
- For the aforesaid reasons, we hereby set aside the impugned judgment and order dated 02.02.2016 of High Court of Delhi. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed along with the application filed by the Appellants seeking amendment of the main prayer.”
“49. We are conscious of the scope of powers of the High Court under Section 482 of Cr.P.C The inherent jurisdiction is to be exercised carefully and with caution and only when exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the Section itself. Further, inherent power under this provision is not the rule but it is an exception. The exception is applied only when it is brought to the notice of the Court that grave miscarriage of justice would be committed if the trial is allowed to proceed where the accused would be harassed unnecessarily. If the trial is allowed to linger when prima facie it appears to the Court that the trial could likely to be ended in acquittal. It is, for this reason, a principle which is laid down by catena of judgments is that the power is to be exercised by the High Court either to prevent abuse of process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
However, whenever it is found that the case is coming within the four corners of the aforesaid parameters, the powers possessed by the High Court under this provision are very wide. It means that the Court has to undertake the exercise with great caution. However, the High Court is not to be inhibited when the circumstances warrant the exercise of such a power to do substantial justice to the parties. This provision has been eloquently discussed in Bhajan Lal’s case which has become locus classicus. Principle Nos. (i) and (ii) of Indian Oil Corporation are, therefore, become applicable. The entire subject matter has been revisited in a recent judgment in Vineet Kumar and some of the discussion therein which takes note of earlier judgments is reproduced below:
“26. A three-Judge Bench in State of Karnataka v. M. Devendrappa [State of Karnataka v. M. Devendrappa] had the occasion to consider the ambit of Section 482 CrPC. By analysing the scope of Section 482 CrPC, this Court laid down that authority of the Court exists for the advancement of justice and if any attempt is made to abuse that authority so as to produce injustice the Court has the power to prevent abuse. It further held that Court would be justified to quash any proceeding if it finds that initiation/continuance of it amounts to an abuse of the process of court or quashing of these proceedings would otherwise serve the ends of justice. The following was laid down in para 6:-
“6. … All courts, whether civil or criminal possess, in the absence of any express provision, as inherent in their constitution, all such powers as are necessary to do the right and to undo a wrong in course of administration of justice on the principle quando lex aliquid alicui concedit, concedere videtur et id sine quo res ipsae esse non potest (when the law gives a person anything it gives him that without which it cannot exist). While exercising powers under the section, the court does not function as a court of appeal or revision. Inherent jurisdiction under the section though wide has to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the section itself. It is to be exercised ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice for the administration of which alone courts exist. Authority of the court exists for advancement of justice and if any attempt is made to abuse that authority so as to produce injustice, the court has power to prevent abuse. It would be an abuse of process of the court to allow any action which would result in injustice and prevent promotion of justice. In exercise of the powers court would be justified to quash any proceeding if it finds that initiation/continuance of it amounts to abuse of the process of court or quashing of these proceedings would otherwise serve the ends of justice. When no offence is disclosed by the complaint, the court may examine the question of fact. When a complaint is sought to be quashed, it is permissible to look into the materials to assess what the complainant has alleged and whether any offence is made out even if the allegations are accepted in toto.”
- Further in para 8 the following was stated: Devendrappa case [State of Karnataka v. M. Devendrappa
“8. … Judicial process should not be an instrument of oppression, or, needless harassment. Court should be circumspect and judicious in exercising discretion and should take all relevant facts and circumstances into consideration before issuing process, lest it would be an instrument in the hands of a private complainant to unleash vendetta to harass any person needlessly. At the same time the section is not an instrument handed over to an accused to short-circuit a prosecution and bring about its sudden death. The scope of exercise of power under Section 482 of the Code and the categories of cases where the High Court may exercise its power under it relating to cognizable offences to prevent abuse of process of any court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice were set out in some detail by this Court in State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal [State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal]
- 50. In the instant case, the High Court simply noted those judgments which put a note of caution in exercising the powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C to quash such proceedings and dismissed the petition with a shallow examination of the case, thereby glossing over the material facts (which are noted hereinabove) and failing to examine that these pertinent aspects were sufficient to demonstrate that no criminal case was made out, particularly when all the concerned officers, who had taken the decision, were let off on the ground that they had not committed any wrong.
- As far as Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 135 of 2017 is concerned, the appellants came to this Court challenging the order of cognizance only because of the reason that matter was already pending as the appellants had filed the Special Leave Petitions against the order of the High Court rejecting their petition for quashing of the FIR/Chargesheet. Having regard to these peculiar facts, writ petition has also been entertained. In any case, once we hold that FIR needs to be quashed, order of cognizance would automatically stands vitiated.
- As a consequence, criminal appeals are allowed thereby setting aside the impugned judgment of the High Court, allowing the petition filed by the appellants under Section 482 Cr.P.C and quashing the FIR under Sections 406, 420, 120B of the IPC and Section 13(2) of the PC Act and FIR under Section 447 read with Section 120B of the IPC, Section 3 of Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act, 1984 and Section 13(2) of the PC Act. In view thereof, writ petition also stands disposed of accordingly.”
Section 482 Cr.P.C has a very wide scope and is an essential part of the functioning of the High courts in order to meet the end of justice but at the same time, it must be noted that the power so assigned is so vast and can be easily misinterpreted. So, it becomes important for the courts to use it wisely and according to the guidelines laid down by High Courts and Supreme Court.
Section 482, in its current form, has seen several changes with the changing times and as per the requirement in any situation. The guidelines framed by the Supreme Court in several of its judgments have played a key role in constraining or limiting this power and to ensure that it is not abused by the Law Practitioners.
Section 482 of Cr.P.C has made its space in Cr.P.C in order to not only enable the High Courts to provide proper justice but also to curb the filing of fictitious complaints.