Lawmakers classified offence into three categories on the basis of their nature, taking the reference of policy-making. These categories are: Firstly, cognizable offence and non-cognizable offence, secondly, bailable offence and non-bailable offence, and thirdly, compoundable and non-compoundable offence.
In actual, when a layman tries to understand the philosophy behind these terms he may think that basis of these classifications is based on seriousness or gravity of the offence, or on the gravity of the punishment.
Yes! He might be correct but not as a whole for the classification isn’t limited to these perspectives. It is the matter of policy-making to categorize the offences. The sole purpose is to smoothen the criminal justice system.
To understand the scenario, we first look at the bare provisions regarding the first two categories in brief. Further, we’ll discuss the Compoundable and Non-Compoundable offences in details.
Bailable and Non-Bailable offences
According to Section 2(a) of CrPC:-
‘Bailable offence’ means an offence which is shown as bailable in the First Schedule, or which is bailable by any other law for the time being in force. ‘Non-bailable offence’ means any other offences. It clearly demarcates if an act which is an offence under the IPC is bailable or not, written in First Schedule. Whatever may be the nature of the offence, if the first schedule mentions it as bailable then it’s bailable. We can see in Section 147 of IPC, the offence of ‘rioting’ which sounds grave but it is a bailable offence, though it is cognizable.
Cognizable and Non-Cognizable offences
According to Section 2(c) of CrPC:-
‘Cognizable offence’ means an offence for which a police officer may in accordance with first schedule arrest without a warrant. We can see Section 466 of IPC, which says, Offence is Forgery of a record of a Court of Justice or of a Registrar of Births, etc., kept by a public servant. Although, it is grave and punishable with the imprisonment for 7 years and fine. It is ‘non-cognizable’ offence while it’s non-bailable in nature.
Compoundable and Non-Compoundable offences
A wrong against society and the state is a serious crime. Therefore, any compromise between the accused and the individual victim of the crime should not absolve the accused from criminal responsibility while some wrongs are of a private nature and are relatively less serious, CrPC considers it expedient to recognize some of them as compoundable offences while others as non-compoundable.
Compounding of Offences Under Ipc
‘Compoundable offences’ are those offences which are relatively less grave in nature in which compromise can be made between the individual and the accused while on the other hand ‘non-compoundable offences’ are those in which compromise can’t be made because of it affects society at large.
The compoundable offences are mostly non-cognizable but the vice-versa is not correct. Section 320 of CrPC deals with the general scheme of the compounding of offence.
Section 320 of CrPC
Offences mentioned in the table provided in section 320 of CrPC are of compoundable in nature. By the way of compounding the offence, the trial comes to end without complete disposal of the case.
Section 320 of CrPC reads as follows: 320(1) The offences punishable under the sections of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) specified in the first two columns of the Table next following may be compounded by the persons mentioned in the third column of that Table. In the table, 21 penal offences are listed, some of these are Sec 298,323,334 of IPC etc. Sec 334 of IPC is an offence of ‘voluntarily causing hurt on provocation’. Sec 323 of IPC is an offence of ‘voluntarily causing hurt’.
320(2) The offences punishable under the sections of the Indian Penal Code (45 of 1860) specified in the first two columns of the table next following may, with the permission of the Court before which any prosecution for such offence is pending, be compounded by the persons mentioned in the third column of the table. In this table, 36 other penal offences are listed.
Briefly, Offences enumerated under section 320(2) are compoundable with the prior permission of the court. Offences under section 320(1) are compoundable as a matter of right.
Special or local laws and ambit of section 320 CrPC
According to the scheme of the section, all offences under the special or local laws are simply non-compoundable. Further, it is left to the wisdom of the legislature to decide as a matter of policy whether and to what extent offences under such laws should be compoundable.
Offences under IPC other than enumerated in Section 320 of CrPC
In the end, section 320(9) of CrPC makes it quite clear that offences not provided in this section are not compoundable. It means there is no effect of compromise on criminal liability of the offence other than this section.
However, the Supreme Court gave permission for compounding the offence under section 307,IPC (attempt to commit murder) in ‘Mahesh Chand v State of Rajasthan’ . The Supreme Court in ‘Ram Lal v State of J&K’ , overruled its decision and held that an offence which law declares to be non-compoundable even with the permission of the court cannot be compoundable at all.
In ‘B.S. Joshi v State of Haryana', Supreme Court held that in a situation of proceedings on the basis of non-compoundable offences like Section 498-A and 406, the High Court could quash them under Section 482 CrPC.
In ‘Gian Singh v State of Punjab’, , the Supreme Court upholding the decision of ‘B.S. Joshi v State of Haryana', and observed that offences arising out of family disputes or matrimony relating to dowry, etc in which wrong is basically private in nature and parties have resolved their disputes, High Court may quash the proceeding under Section 482 of the Code. This power is different from the power of a criminal court to compound the offences.
Offences in which compromise can be made are compoundable otherwise non-compoundable. In non-compoundable offences, Court may compound the offence i.e. allowing the compromise. Basically, the offences in which criminal liability seizes at the stance of compromise are compoundable offences while criminal liability never comes to an end although compromise has been done between the parties are called non-compoundable offences.
However, in determining the quantum of sentence court considers the fact of compromise. All others special and local laws are non-compoundable if the option of compromise is not expressly provided in the statute.
1. 1990 Supp (1) SCC 681
2. (1999) 2 SCC 213
3. (2003) 4 SCC 675
4. (2012) 10 SCC 303