2015 ALL SCR 921
SUPREME COURT

T.S. THAKUR AND R. BANUMATHI, JJ.

Murari Lal Gupta & Anr. Vs. State of U.P. & Ors.

Criminal Appeal No.2123 of 2014,Criminal Appeal No.2126 of 2014

23rd September, 2014

Petitioner Counsel: Mr. SUBHASISH BHOWMICK, Ms. BHARTI TYAGI,
Respondent Counsel: Mr. GARVESH KABRA, Ms. POOJA KABRA, Mr. AMIT SINGH, Mr. VIKRANT YADAV, Mr. GAURAV DHINGRA

Criminal P.C. (1973), Ss.482, 320 - Quashing of proceeding - Criminal proceeding initiated against appellant for offence punishable u/Ss.498A, 323, 506 of Penal Code and Ss.3/4 of Dowry Prohibition Act - Case where parties are settling matrimonial disputes - Offence of cruelty and that under Dowry Prohibition Act though are non compoundable - But in view of fact that divorce decree obtained by parties clearly show that there are no chance of any rehabilitation of relationship between them - And claim for arrears of maintenance already settled and settlement filed before Supreme Court and undertaking assures payment of balance amount also - Fit case for quashing of criminal proceedings against appellant. (Paras 10, 11)

Cases Cited:
Neha Gupta Vs. Mayank Kumar Gupta, C.P.299/2011, Dt.14.08.2012 [Para 6]


JUDGMENT

JUDGMENT :- Leave granted.

2. High Court of Allahabad has declined to exercise its powers under Section 482 Cr.P.C. to quash criminal proceedings in Case No. 9171 of 2009 titled State of U.P. and Ors. Vs. M.L.Gupta & Ors. for offences punishable under Sections 498-A, 323, 504, 506 IPC and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act arising out of Crime Case No. 2689 of 2009 registered at police station, Nawabad, District Jhansi. The appellants who happen to be the parents in law of complainant-Ms. Neha Gupta-respondent No. 2 in these proceedings have assailed the said order in the present appeal.

3. It is in our view unnecessary to recapitulate the entire factual backdrop in which the controversy arises. All that need be mentioned is that appellant's son-Mayank Gupta married the complainant-respondent No. 2 on 29.06.2005 at Jhansi. The relationship between the parties appears to have remained embittered from the very beginning on account of the alleged harassment of the respondent by the appellants and their son for dowry resulting in multiple legal proceedings between the parties against each other in different courts and jurisdictions. While Mr. Mayank Kumar Gupta, the husband who is settled in the USA appears to have filed a divorce petition in a Court in the US, Ms. Neha Gupta, the wife filed a similar petition seeking divorce on the ground of cruelty before the Family Court at Jhansi. It is a common ground that in both cases so filed ex-parte decrees for dissolution of marriage between the parties have been passed. Be that as it may, the fact remains that the parties have for good parted company and neither of them has any regret about the same.

4. What is important is that the bitterness in the relationship between the parties was not limited only to civil litigation between them. Even the criminal law was set in motion with the filing of an FIR registered as Crime Case No.2689 of 2007 at Navabad police station District Jhansi, U.P. for offences punishable under Sections 498A, 324, 504, 505 IPC and Section 3/4 of the Dowry Prohibition Act. In her complaint filed before the said police station, respondent-wife accused not only the husband Mayank Gupta but also his parents, the appellants before us of harassing her for dowry and for other acts of cruelty. The police case eventually culminated in the filing of a charge-sheet against the appellants before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jhansi who has taken cognizance and summoned the appellants as also Mayank Gupta, their son as accused persons.

5. Criminal Misc. Application No. 20607 of 2012 was in the above backdrop filed before the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad under Section 482, Cr.P.C. for quashing the criminal proceedings launched against the appellants. A discharge application filed by the appellants before the Court at Jhansi was also rejected by the said court by an order dated 07.05.2012 which too came under challenge before the High Court. The High Court has upon consideration declined to interfere with the on-going proceedings hence the present appeal.

6. When the matter came up before us on 25.04.2014, learned counsel for the parties were not averse to exploring the possibility of an amicable settlement with the help of the Mediation Centre in the Supreme Court. We had accordingly directed the parties to the Mediation Centre in the Supreme Court to explore the possibility of a settlement. The Mediation Centre submitted a report according to which efforts to bring about a settlement had failed That is how the matter came up before us on 01.09.2014 and 16.09.2014 when the parties once again started talking of a possible agreed solution in the nature of a full and final settlement that would satisfy the claim made by the wife towards the return of her streedhan and other articles and put an end to the criminal proceedings and resultant acrimony between the parties. Our attention was in that connection drawn to a ex-parte judgment and decree passed in Civil Petition No. 299 of 2011 titled Neha Gupta Vs. Mayank Kumar Gupta disposed of the Family Court at Jhansi on 14.08.2012. From a reading of the said order it is clear that the Family Court has held respondent No.2 wife to the payment of a sum of Rs. 18,18,000/- from the husband Mr. Mayank Gupta. It is not in dispute that the judgment and order passed by the Family Court has attained finality as no appeal against the same has been filed.

7. When the matter came up for hearing today we were told that the parties have indeed made yet another attempt and agreed to settle the entire dispute not only arising out of the value of the dowry articles but also on account of the claim, arrears of maintenance which have been assessed at Rs. 3,00,000/-. Learned counsel for the parties have in this connection filed a settlement deed before us, from a perusal whereof it appears that the parties have agreed to settle the entire dispute upon payment of a sum of Rs. 22,00,000/- out of which Rs. 19,00,000/- will be paid in full and final settlement of the decreetal amount while the remaining Rs. 3,00,000/- will represent the arrears of maintenance. One of the appellants Mr. Murari Lal Gupta who is present in the court along with his son Manish Gupta @ Saurabh Gupta submitted that out of a sum of Rs. 22,00,000/- the appellants have already deposited Rs. 5,00,000/- in this court. The balance amount of Rs. 17,00,000/- according to learned counsel for the appellant No. 1 shall be paid by the appellants and their son Mayank Gupta in four equal instalments quarterly. It is submitted by learned counsel for the appellants that with this payment the entire claim made by respondent No. 2 would stand satisfied giving a quietus to the controversy and bringing lasting peace to both the parties.

8. On behalf of respondent No. 2-wife who is also present in person it was submitted by learned counsel appearing for her and her father who too is present in person that the payment of the balance of Rs.17,00,000/- could be directed to be expedited.

9. We have explored the possibility of an early payment of the balance amount but are of the view that looking to the financial condition of the appellants, it may not be feasible to do so. We would therefore accept the settlement between the parties as finalised and grant the facility of payment of the balance amount of Rs.17,00,000/- in quarterly instalments of Rs. 4,25,000/- each.

10. The question then is whether the settlement arrived at between the appellants who represent their interest and the interest of their son Mayank Gupta, on the one hand, and respondent No.2-wife, on the other, would justify quashing of the criminal proceedings. There is no dispute that offence punishable under Section 498A of IPC and that under the Dowry Prohibition Act are not compoundable. The remaining offences under Sections 323, 504 and 505 are, however, compoundable. Courts do not recognise settlements between the accused and the complainant party for quashing proceedings in cases which are not compoundable under Section 320, Cr.P.C. There is however an exception to that rule. That exception comprises case where the parties are settling a matrimonial dispute. To give quietus to the controversy between them on all counts, this Court has permitted quashing of criminal proceedings also, no matter the offences may not be compoundable. The present is, in our opinion, a fit case in which that power could be exercised especially when all outstanding issues between the parties are getting resolved. The fact that the parties have not only decided to actually part company on the basis of the decrees of divorce obtained by them clearly shows that there are no chances of any rehabilitation of relationship between them. So also the fact that the Family Court has already adjudicated upon claim which the respondent-wife has made against her former husband and her parents in law and determined a definite sum towards compensation payable to the wife on that account is also suggestive of settlement of the civil part of the dispute. There is a claim towards arrears of maintenance which too has been assessed at Rs. 3,00,000/-. All told the claim for money has been assessed and the amount agreed fixed at Rs. 22,00,000/- out of which a sum of Rs. 5,00,000/- has already been deposited in this Court. The settlement filed before this Court and undertaking assures the payment of the balance amount also.

11. In the circumstances we are of the view that upon payment of the balance amount of Rs. 17,00,000/- in the manner agreed to between the parties, the proceedings in the criminal case arising out of FIR No. 2689 of 2007 and domestic violence case filed by the wife could be quashed. We accordingly allow these appeals, set aside the order passed by the High Court and direct as under:

1) proceedings in Criminal Case No. 2689 of 2007 currently registered as 9171 of 2009 pending before the CJM shall remain stayed for a period of one year from today to enable the petitioner-appellant herein to pay the balance amount of Rs. 17,00,000/- in terms of the settlement filed before us in four quarterly instalments of Rs 4.25 lakhs each

2) In case the amount of Rs. 17,00,000/- is paid in terms of the above direction, proceedings in case aforementioned shall stand quashed w.e.f. the date the payment is made.

In case however the appellants defaults in making the payment, the proceedings before the Trial Court shall stand revived and be taken to their logical conclusion.

The amount, if any, paid during the intervening period by the appellants in part liquidation of the liability shall stand adjusted towards the decretal amount in terms of the order passed by the Family Court.

3) In the event of payment of the amount as directed by us the domestic violence case filed by Respondent No.2 shall also be withdrawn by the complainant if it is a private complaints and shall stand quashed in case the same has been filed by way of a police report.

4) Proceeding in the said domestic violence case shall remain stayed for a period of one year to enable the appellants therein to abide by the terms of the settlement.

5) The amount of Rs. 5,00,000/- already deposited shall be released in favour of respondent No. 2-wife together with interest, if any, accrued on the same in part payment of the arrangement made hereinabove. The sum of Rs. 25,000/- deposited towards travel expenses shall also stand released in favour of the respondent No.2.

Ordered accordingly.