Judicial Approach related to Quashing of First Information Reports (FIRs).
Updated: Oct 26, 2020
In ordinary terms, to ‘quash’ generally means to nullify, to make void or declare invalid. In legal parlance, 'quashing of an FIR' means to completely stop the process of criminal proceeding against any person which has already been put forward in motion. It is often seen that innocent people are deliberately framed with mala fide intentions based on fabricated and false complaints. Once the FIR is registered against them, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to face the police and the entire trial. Also, more often than not there is a long bridge between the registration of an FIR and filing of the charge sheet. Thus, quashing of the FIR is an important remedial step in order to absolve someone from criminal liability at a very initial stage of criminal proceedings, and for the said purpose, High Courts are provided with extraordinary and inherent powers having wide scope which can be exercised only in the rarest of rare cases.
LEGAL PROVISIONS GOVERNING QUASHING OF FIR IN INDIA:
The legal position on the issue of quashing of criminal proceedings is well-settled that the jurisdiction to quash a complaint, FIR or a charge-sheet should be exercised sparingly and only in exceptional cases and Courts should not ordinarily interfere with the investigations of cognizable offences. However, where the allegations made in the FIR or the complaint even if taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused, the FIR or the charge-sheet may be quashed in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution or inherent powers under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C.
In the well-celebrated judgment of State of Haryana and others v. Bhajan Lal, Supreme Court laid down following guidelines for quashing of FIR:
Where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety to do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
Where the allegations in the First Information Report and other materials, if any, 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 156(2) of the Code.
Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the FIR or complaint 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 without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.
Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which no prudent person can every 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) 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 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 personal grudge.
However, where the submissions raised by the Petitioner while seeking quashing of an FIR relate to question of facts, then the same cannot be examined under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. It was held by Allahabad High Court in the case of Umang Kumar and 3 Others v. State of U.P. and 2 Others that, “The adjudication of questions of facts and appreciation of evidence or examining the reliability and credibility of the version, does not fall within the arena of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. In view of the material on record, it cannot be held that the impugned criminal proceeding are manifestly attended with mala fide and maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge. FIR or criminal proceedings can be quashed only in accordance with parameters laid down by Hon'ble Apex Court in catena of decisions. In the instant case from the perusal of the FIR, prima facie it cannot be said that no cognizable offence is made out. The present petition does not fall in any of such category, wherein, this Court can exercise jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to quash the impugned FIR. Hence no ground exists for quashing of the F.I.R. or staying the arrest of the petitioner(s).”
Further, a Division Bench of Allahabad High Court in Puttan Singh v. State of U.P. and later a Seven-Judge Bench of the same very Court in Ram Lal Yadav v. State of U.P. held that, a petition for quashing of an FIR under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. is not maintainable during the course of investigation, as the police has unfettered powers of investigation and the Court has no powers under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. to interfere with the same and the functions of the Court will start only after submission of the result of the investigation.
JUDICIAL APPROACH FOR QUASHING OF FIR:
Distinct approaches for quashing of FIR are elucidated below:–
Quashing of FIR on the basis of settlement in Non-Compoundable Offences
As per Section 320(1) and (2) of Cr.P.C, certain offences are compoundable without the permission of the Court and others are compoundable with the permission of the Court. But non-compoundable offences cannot be compounded even with the permission of the Court. However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in Narinder Singh & Ors. Vs. State of Punjab & Anr., dealt with a similar issue on whether criminal proceedings can be quashed on the basis of a settlement in non-compoundable offences and held that it is the duty of the High Court to examine whether the prosecution has collected sufficient evidence to prove the charge against the accused. If there is a strong possibility of conviction, then the High Court may not accept the compromise and not quash away the criminal proceedings. But otherwise, it would be permissible for the High Court to accept the plea of compounding if chances of conviction are bleak.
Quashing of FIR when the dispute is of Civil Nature
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Trilok Singh & Ors. Vs. Satya Deo Tripathi., laid down a principle that if the dispute arisen is purely of a civil in nature between the parties then High Court can quash criminal proceedings exercising its inherent power under Section 482 of the CrPC which is nothing but merely abuse of process of the Court.
Quashing of FIR in post-filing of Charge Sheet
In Anand Kumar Mohatta and Ors. v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) Department of Home and Ors., Apex Court examined whether an FIR can be quashed even after filing of the charge sheet and concluded that there is nothing contained in Section 482 of Cr.P.C, which can restrict the exercise of the power of the Court to prevent the abuse of process of Court or miscarriage of justice only till the stage of the FIR. It would be wrong to hold that proceedings initiated against a person can interfere only till the stage of FIR but not if it has advanced, and taken the form of a charge sheet.
Quashing of FIR in Non-Compoundable cases relating to Matrimonial Disputes
Section 498A of IPC deals with matrimonial cruelty and is a cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable offence. Husband or relatives of husband of a woman subjecting her to cruelty, whoever subjects such woman to cruelty shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall be liable to fine. The objective of this Section is to punish the husband and relatives of the husband who troubles and torture the wife to coerce her or her relatives to satisfy unlawful demands. But nowadays, women misuse this remedy available to them to harass and blackmail their husband and his relatives to fulfill their demands. Hence, it becomes very necessary for the Courts to carefully scrutinize the allegations and to find out if the allegations made constitute an offence. In the case of Sushil Kumar Sharma v. Union of India., the Supreme Court though upheld the constitutionality of Section 498A of IPC but at the very same point also observed that many instances also do come where the complaints are not bonafide and are filed with oblique motive. Just because the provision is constitutional it does not give a license to unscrupulous persons to wreck personal vendetta or unleash harassment.
The offence under Section 498A of IPC is a non-compoundable offence in which FIR cannot be quashed under Section 482 of CrPC, but in the case of B.S. Joshi and Ors v. the State of Haryana., the Hon’ble Supreme Court clearly clarified this position by upholding that High Court in the exercise of its inherent powers can quash the criminal proceedings. Also, Section 320 (Compounding of offences) of the Code cannot limit or affect the powers under Section 482 of the Code. A similar view was also taken in the case Jitendra Raghuvanshi & Ors vs Babita Raghuvanshi & Anr., where the Hon’ble Supreme Court shed more light on the scope and ambit of inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 of CrPC.
The laws are made to ensure that no one is suppressing anyone and justice is served to each and every one. One such aspect of serving justice is the quashing of a frivolous, baseless, and superficial FIR filed against an innocent person with malafide intent and ulterior motive. Quashing of FIR has to be done very carefully and cautiously after duly examining each aspect of any matter. The sole purpose of quashing an FIR is to meet the ends of justice and safeguard people from unnecessary litigation. Though there is no straight-jacket formula for quashing of FIR, but, Hon’ble Supreme Court has from time to time laid various guidelines and principles according to which it must be rightly exercised by the High Courts.
 AIR 1992 SC 605.
 Criminal Misc. Writ Petition No. 20559 of 2019.
 ACC 1987 (24) Page 268.
 ACC 1989 (26) Page 181.
 (2014) 6 SCC 466.
 AIR 1979 SC 850.
 AIR 2019 SC 210.
 (2005) 6 SCC 281.
 2003 (4) SCC 675.
 (2013) 4 SCC 58.
(Authors: Mr. Prateek Kumar Singh and Mr. Rohan Gupta, Interns at S&D Legal Associates.)