Can’t nix rape case even after compromise: SC
Dhananjay Mahapatra,TNN | Jul 29, 2014, 12.16 AM IST
NEW DELHI: Dowry harassment cases are personal in nature and can be quashed if the estranged couple reach a "genuine" compromise, the Supreme Court has ruled.
A bench of Justice Ranjana Desai and N V Ramana drew a contrast between offences under Section 498A IPC and heinous crimes like rape and murder, though all three categories of offences are non-compoundable.
It said Section 320 of the Criminal Procedure Code provided the list of offences that could be compounded after parties reached a compromise and the courts have to strictly follow that.
Writing the judgment for the bench, Justice Desai said, "It is, therefore, not possible to permit compounding of offences under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code and Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. However, if there is a genuine compromise between husband and wife, criminal complaints arising out of matrimonial discord can be quashed, even if the offences alleged therein are non-compoundable, because such offences are personal in nature and do not have repercussion on society, unlike heinous offences like murder, rape etc."
The judgment came in a case related to a complaint under Section 498A and Section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act by a woman against her husband and parents-in-law. Though the Madhya Pradesh high court acquitted the parents-in-law, it upheld the conviction of the husband. However, the HC reduced the sentence of the husband to six months imprisonment from two years sentence imposed by the trial court.
In the apex court, the estranged couple reached a compromise with the husband agreeing to pay Rs 2.5 lakh in addition to bearing the cost of litigation. The woman pleaded for quashing of the case against her estranged husband. The standing counsel for Madhya Pradesh opposed quashing the case.
The bench examined whether the apex court could reduce the sentence in a case where the conviction has been upheld by the trial court and the high court. The court found that though Section 498A of IPC did not prescribe a minimum sentence, Section 4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act provided a minimum six-month sentence.
The court was in a dilemma even after coming to the conclusion that appellate courts could reduce sentence to the period already undergone despite the minimum sentence provided for. The dilemma arose because the husband had been in jail for just seven days.
The bench rejected the state's objection to the compromise and said, "We see no reason why in this case we should not reduce the husband's sentence to the sentence already undergone by him. There can be no doubt about the genuine nature of the compromise between the husband and wife." It recorded the compromise and relieved the husband of further imprisonment.