On 4th of October, 2017, the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgement, brought in a sign of relief by ruling that criminal proceedings in grave offences like murder, rape, dacoity, and financial fraud cannot be quashed even if the parties settle such dispute amicably. Any criminal activity is a public wrong against the society at large. Kolkata-based Vedatrayee reports, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Outside court settlements are nothing unusual in India. There are several instances where crimes that give rise to grave consequences end up in an ‘amicable’ settlement outside the courtroom and the proceedings are quashed. The legal mechanism in India suffers from many ailments in itself. There are several factors that discourage victims, especially the ones belonging to the lower rungs of the economy. It is a common behavioral pattern in this country, where lawyers are dreaded instead of bringing in a sense of security. People are overshadowed by an inexplicable sense of fear, if I may call it if they consider opting for judicial relief. Seventy years after Independence this remains an area of concern which perhaps is uncontainable. Those who however manage to come to the court are made to face unwanted hardships playing a detrimental role and hence they readily agree to settlements, amicable or not.
However, on 4th of October, 2017, Wednesday, the Supreme Court brought in a sign of relief by ruling that criminal proceedings in grave offences like murder, rape, dacoity, and financial fraud cannot be quashed even if the parties settle such dispute amicably. Any criminal activity is a public wrong against the society at large. Hence any criminal activity if let go off, poses a great threat to the society.
Amicable settlements are in themselves a travesty of justice and the judiciary system has taken a Samaritan step by its ruling. The Court observed that these offences are so grave in nature that it is bound to have a negative impact on the society. If such offences go unpunished it would lower the faith of the masses in the judicial system of the country, on one hand, and would give a boost to the criminal mentality of the people, on the other.
The Bench consisting of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilker and D Y Chandrachud said, “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.” The Court passed the order while dismissing an appeal filed by four persons seeking to quash the FIR against them for allegedly grabbing land with the help of forged documents. They contended that the FIR should be quashed since the matter had been settled with the landowner who lodged a police complaint. This definitely is a ruling that favours the people of the country where everyone shuns away from judicial proceedings and courtroom procedures. It is an attempt towards securing justice for all.
Another important facet of the ruling is that economic and financial fraud has been brought at par with heinous offences. Any financial fraud, although apparently private in nature, is a blow to the economic security of the country. This is a praiseworthy attempt on part of the Bench. The Apex Court further said, “The High Courts would be justified in declining to quash where the offender is involved in an activity akin to a financial or economic fraud or misdemeanor.” However, the court has also stated that the offences which are although criminal in nature has a predominant element of civil dispute shall be given a different footing. Otherwise, there will be no end to criminal litigations and the courts would be overburdened with the cases which can be amicably settled outside the courts amongst the parties. Hence, the court has struck a fine balance between what is needed and what should be done.
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