Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 is a very powerful provision by virtue of which, the Court can preserve and safeguard the ends of criminal justice. The Section in a bid to save the inherent power of the High Courts, states “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.”
This provision can be regarded as a very salutary provision which can play a role in protecting the sanity of the proceedings under the Indian criminal justice system whenever there might be a blatant irregularity or illegality occurring. But since the powers under the ambit of this Section can yield significant impacts, there is a diligent and onerous duty cast upon the Court to use this power sparingly and to proceed with caution. It has been held in judicial pronouncements such as that of MadhuLimaye v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1978 SC 47 that the power under this section can only be exercised when there is an imperative need arising in order to protect the ends of justice or preventing abuse of process.
Section 482 Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 and Community Service
However, the power under this Section can also be used creatively by judgments that further the agenda of delivering justice by punishing offenders in a way that meets the aim of deterrence as well as can bring a change in the mindset of the offender and try to reform him.
Very recently in the case of MohdUmair @ Umer v. State, the Delhi High Court quashed the FIR on the ground of compromise, which was filed against a 21 year old under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. This was done keeping in mind the fact that the accused was of a very young age and had his entire life ahead of him. He was warned not to repeat the offence in the future and asked to keep a check on his temper. The Court asked him to undertake community service at the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib for a period of one month and to obtain a certificate for the same. He was also asked to pay 1 lakh rupees which would be deposited in various social welfare funds.
The Delhi High Court in the case of Mahinder Singh alias Sunny &Anr v. The State &Ors directed the two petitioners booked under Section 308 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, to undertake community service for a minimum time of one month at the Ram ManoharLohia Hospital to make them realize that anger does not give them the license to take law in their own hands. They were both asked to pay costs amounting to 25,000 rupees each which would be given to the Army Welfare Fund Battle Casualties. The FIR was quashed by exercising powers under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 because of compromise between the parties and intervention by their parents.
The quashing of FIRs in these cases was possible because it is a settled principle of law by virtue of judicial interpretation, that when there is a compromise between the parties to a case where the offence is private in nature and does not affect the society at large, the Court can consider factors such as nature of injuries, type of weapons used, etc. and pronounce compulsory community service instead of imprisonment.
Reformative theory of punishment
The Law Commission of India in its 262nd Report substantiated upon the reformative theory of punishment and enunciated that this theory posits that every offender or delinquent is capable of change, and once the circumstances or reasons that prompted the commission of the offence are removed, they can start leading peaceful and ordinary lives. It characterized reformation as the “central normative commitment” of our criminal justice system.
Even in Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration (1978) 4 SCC 494, the Court recognized the paramount importance of rehabilitation and reformation in the sentencing policies of the Indian criminal justice system and emphasized that a rehabilitation purpose is implicit in every sentence passed by a criminal Court. In the case of Mohammad Giasuddin v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1977) 3 SCC 287, the Court again reiterated the interest of the modern society in the reformation of an offender and advocated for a therapeutic approach.
The reformative theory of punishment believes that offenders should be given a punishment that fulfills the objective of social education. It is thought that crime is a disease that has to be properly treated. The fundamental motive of inflicting punishment should be that the offender is reformed and begins to perform the act which is good and abstains from doing acts that are wrong. This theory works on the assumption that a criminal, after the commission of a crime shall not cease to be a human being. Accordingly, during his period of incarceration, effort must be directed to reform him and convert him into a law-abiding member of society. The reformative theory of punishment can prove to be particularly useful when the offender has committed the crime for the very first time or is a juvenile.
The Delhi High Court has undoubtedly taken the right approach in all three cases where it has mandated the offenders to perform community service at various social institutions. Their fragile age and prospects of a good life in the future were major considerations that led to this decision. The act of the Court can be commended as a very just and equitable use of the powers enshrined under Section 482 of the Code. This is in consonance with the reformatory theory of punishment. Had all the offenders in these cases been sent to jail, they would have a miserable life behind bars away from the general society and their families and this period of detention would scar the long lives that awaited them. But the imposition of community service as punishment would ensure that these offenders use their time productively to help people in the society surrounding them and contribute to the overall welfare. The offenders would learn by helping others, the gravity of the offences they had committed and would regret and repent. They may even try to indulge in more such community service platforms to ensure that the society is happy and healthy and no other individual takes up the route which was taken by them. They would be reformed and abstain from committing anti-social acts in the future. The imposition of monetary penalties and their disbursement to social welfare institutions was valid and a great move on the part of the judge. This sum of money can be used to uplift underprivileged sections of society or to cause welfare in general.
Courts which are the primary protectors of justice should make wise use of salutary provisions such as Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which can generate a lot of welfare for the society. A lot of first time offenders as well as juvenile delinquents who have committed an offence with a relatively lesser seriousness or have reached an amicable compromise with the victim should be made to perform community service tasks for one month or even longer. This will help accomplish two-fold objectives of reforming the offender and integrating him with the society again by bringing him on the right track, and contributing to the overall welfare of the community. In this way, their lives will change for the better without going through the difficult times in prison. Imposition of monetary penalties is appropriate because various social institutions lack modest amount of funds to carry out their activities which can be sponsored by the Courts in this way. Hence, I conclude that Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, should be used creatively to award community services and thus glorify the considerations of humanity.
*This article has been written by Aditya Rajpal Dayal, a student of Batch of 2024 at the Gujarat National Law University, Gandhinagar.