Read Order: Surinder Kumar v. State of Haryana and Others

Monika Rahar

Chandigarh, May 24, 2022:  Echoing the words of Maria Montessori when she said, “children are human beings to whom respect is due, superior to us by reason of this innocence and of the greater possibilities of their future”, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that in a case involving offence against a child, any agreement/compromise executed by the child (till the age of majority) himself/herself will be void ab initio.

The parents cannot be allowed to compromise the dignity of a child by an agreement, opined Justice Pankaj Jain while also saying, “The compromise affected by the child and/or her parents, compromising the dignity of the child cannot be raised to a status where it defeats the very object of the Act. Power granted under Section 482 Cr.P.C. cannot be exercised to defeat the purpose of an enactment enacted in discharge of Constitutional mandate as well as obligation arising out of International Conventions.”

Consequently, the Court held that the FIR registered for offences punishable under the POCSO Act cannot be quashed on the basis of compromise.

By way of the present petition, the petitioner was seeking quashing of an FIR registered against him under Sections 452 and 506 of IPC and Section 3 of SC/ST Act and Section 8 of POCSO Act, 2012 at Women Police Station Dabwali, Sirsa, based on a compromise between the parties. This quashing plea posed the issue whether an FIR registered for offences punishable under the POCSO Act can be quashed on the basis of a compromise while exercising jurisdiction under Section 482 Cr.P.C.

The Court, at the very outset, reflected on the object of the Act to observe that the statement of objects and reasons of the Act recognizes the duty cast upon the State to direct its policy towards securing that the children in their tender age are not abused and their childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and they are given facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity as directed by Article 39 of the Constitution of India

Justice Jain added that the statement further declares, the enforcement of the right of all children to security, safety and protection from sexual abuse and exploitation-as an object of the Act. It is said to have been enacted with reference to Article 15 (3) of the Constitution of India, the Court held. 

Additionally, the Court noted that the Preamble of the Act further declares sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children as a “heinous crime” which needs to be effectively addressed. 

Thus, on the exercise of jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 Cr.P.C. to quash an FIR for the offence committed under the POCSO Act, the Court was of the opinion that the offences under the POCSO Act being heinous in nature will fall under the exceptions as carved out by the Supreme Court in the case of State of Madhya Pradesh Vs. Laxmi Narayan and Others.

In the case of Laxmi Narayan (Supra) the Top Court held that the power conferred under section 482 of the Code to quash the criminal proceedings for the non-compoundable offences under Section 320 of the Code can be exercised in cases having overwhelmingly and predominantly the civil character but such power is not to be exercised in those prosecutions which involved “heinous and serious offences of mental depravity” or offences like murder, rape, dacoity, etc. Such offences are not private in nature and have a serious impact on society. 

Another thing that was highlighted by the Court was that in the case of a child, the compromise effected between the parents cannot be recognized. Any agreement/compromise executed by the child (till the age of majority) himself/herself as in the present case will be ‘void ab initio’ and thus cannot be accorded validity, the Court held while also adding that parents cannot be allowed to compromise the dignity of a child by an agreement. 

“Where ever and whenever in a society governed by rule of law the question will arise: who will protect from the protector? The only and obvious answer will be-LAW”, asserted Justice Jain. 

Against this backdrop, it was held that the compromise affected by the child and/or her parents, compromising the dignity of the child cannot be raised to a status where it defeats the very object of the Act and that the power granted under Section 482 Cr. P.C cannot be exercised to defeat the purpose of an enactment enacted in the discharge of a constitutional mandate as well as an obligation arising out of International Conventions. 

“Consequently, this Court finds that the FIR registered for offences punishable under the Act cannot be quashed on the basis of compromise”, concluded the Court while dismissing the petition. 

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