SC Quashes Rape Case to Do 'Complete Justice' To Accused and The Victim

-Gautham Rajan

BACKGROUND: (SC Rape Accused)

The SC had recently quashed a rape case on the ground of settlement that arrived between the accused and the victim.

The Kerala High Court refused to quash the case as it was of the opinion that proceedings for offenses under Sec. 376 of the Indian Penal Code cannot be quashed.

In the appeal filed before the Supreme Court, it took note of the “peculiar facts of the case” and, therefore, set aside the order of the High Court.

CURRENT ISSUE:

The above statements are related to the case of Saju PR v. the State of Kerala. The Supreme Court was of the opinion that “the relief claimed by the appellant to quash the criminal proceedings pending against him deserves to be acceded to for doing complete justice to the parties concerned. Accordingly, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court is set aside and the Miscellaneous Case filed by the appellant before the High Court stands allowed.”

The High Court, however, declined the order for quashing stating that “It is not inclined to quash the proceedings for an offense punishable under section 376 IPC, on consent.”

The SC was of the opinion that the relief claimed by the appellant in the present case of rape should be considered for acceptance in the interest of “doing justice” to both accused and victim in the present case.

Both the High Court and the Supreme Court have passed short orders for the present case.

READ ALSO: ATTEMPT TO RAPE ATTRACTED EVEN WHEN THE ACCUSED DOES NOT UNDRESS HIMSELF

QUESTION OF LAW:

There are two questions that are to be answered in the present case. They are as follows:

1. Can a rape case be quashed?

2. If so, on what grounds can it be quashed?

Section 376 of the Indian Penal Code provides for punishment for offenses of rape. It provides for a minimum punishment of seven years and a maximum of ten years and the offender is also liable to fine.

1. Can a rape case be quashed?

This question is said to divide opinion. Some cases, like Ashiq N.A. v. the State of Kerala, defend the quashing of a rape case on grounds that the rapist marries the victim for the welfare of the said victim. In the aforementioned case, the Kerala High Court was of the opinion that “the exception to the above approach could be in cases where the accused married the victim to ensure her better future life.” The court was of the opinion that if the complainant was requesting the quashing of the criminal proceedings, it can be inclined to quash the case. The court later invoked the provisions of Sec. 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and quashed the case.

However, in Miss XYZ vs the State of Gujarat, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that rape cases can’t be quashed when the settlement was obtained by way of coercion.

In another case, the Madras High Court held that a rape case cannot be quashed even if the victim abandons or “resiles” from her allegations as the offense was not only against the individual but also against the State. The court, in said case, refused to quash the FIR filed against the accused on grounds that both parties had settled the issue amicably. It was of the opinion that it was not open for the parties to compromise the matter since the offenses of rape and robbery were all offenses against the State.

The above paragraph is cited from the case Madhan Alias Madhankumar vs The Inspector of Police.

READ ALSO: RAPE CANNOT BE QUASHED ON SETTLEMENT BETWEEN PARTIES.

2. If so, on what grounds can it be quashed?

Normally, a case involving a serious offense like rape cannot be quashed. But under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, criminal proceedings can be quashed. The provision states as follows:

“Saving of inherent powers of the High Court. Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or affect the inherent powers of the High Court to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, or to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”

As stated in Ashiq N.A. v. the State of Kerala, a rape case can be quashed keeping in mind the betterment of the victim. The Kerala High Court used the provisions of Sec. 482 to quash the case as it aimed to secure justice for both parties.

The SC, in a case, was of the opinion that there should not arise a question of quashing a rape case among accused and victim. However, some high courts have used their inherent power to quash rape cases, especially where the accused and the victim have entered into eventual wedlock. The said inherent power is conferred upon the High Courts by the provision of Sec. 482 of CrPC.

This, therefore, sets a precedent that rape cases can be quashed if the accused and the victim get married. However, that depends on the opinion of the concerned High Court. 

In the present case, the case was quashed by the Supreme Court because of the “peculiarity of facts”.

CONCLUSION:

As stated before, rape cases cannot be normally quashed. But Section 482 of the CrPC gives High Court power to quash criminal proceedings. To quash a rape case can cause problems to the legal system. However, the general view of the courts is to not quash rape cases. And claims to quash a rape case on grounds of arriving at a settlement has also not been entertained by the courts. The order passed by the Supreme Court in the present case is in antecedence to the general rule followed.

READ ALSO: RAPE VICTIMS HAVE A REPRODUCTIVE CHOICE UNDER ARTICLE 21: BOMBAY HC