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Consider compounding dowry offences, Court tells Law Commission

J. Venkatesan

When offender and victim reach settlement, burden on courts will ease


Compounding can encourage reconciliation

Bench order to be placed before Law Minister


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has asked the Law Commission to examine whether certain non-compoundable offences under the Indian Penal Code, including dowry harassment, can be made compoundable by introducing an amendment to the statute so that the burden on courts can be reduced.

(In such cases, where the offender and the victim reach a compromise, there is no need to waste the court's time by conducting a trial.

The process of reaching a compromise is called compounding. Offences in which a compromise can be reached and trial avoided are called compoundable offences. The rest of the offences are non-compoundable.)

A Bench of Justices Markandey Katju and T.S. Thakur said: “There are several offences under the IPC that are currently non-compoundable.

These include offences punishable under Section 498-A (dowry harassment and cruelty) and 326 (Voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means). Some such offences can be made compoundable by introducing a suitable amendment.”

The Bench said, “The Law Commission could examine whether a suitable proposal can be sent to the Union Government in this regard. Any such step would not only relieve courts of the burden of deciding cases in which the aggrieved parties have themselves arrived at a settlement but may also encourage the process of reconciliation.”

The Bench requested the Commission to examine all these aspects and take such steps as might be considered feasible. The Secretary-General of the Supreme Court was asked to send a copy of this order to the Commission as well as to the Law Secretary, who would place it before the Law Minister.

In the instant case, Ramgopal and another accused were convicted of an offence under Section 326 of the IPC. But later the parties arrived at an amicable settlement. However, as the offence under Section 326 was non-compoundable, the Bench said it could not straightway acquit the petitioners, notwithstanding the settlement. The Bench made the suggestion while disposing of the matter.

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