From Justice Definitions Project

What is Compounding of Offence

Compounding means to agree for a consideration not to prosecute (an offence) or to settle amicably or adjust by agreement. To put it simply, compounding is set to take place when two people come to a settlement.[1] In a legal sense compounding takes place when the victim and the accused come to an agreement by which the victim agrees to not prosecute the accused.

Crimes, being public wrongs against the State and society at large, generally cannot be resolved by agreement. But, there are some crimes that are of a private nature and not as serious that can be resolved this way, known as compoundable offences. Most compoundable offences are also non-cognisable.[2]

Official Definition

The term “compounding” in itself is nowhere defined in Cr.P.C. However Section 320 of Cr.P.C explains the entire procedure of compounding an offence, as well as lists the offences that are compoundable (otherwise being non-compoundable by default) and who may compound offences (usually the victim or the person affected by the crime). Further, it clarifies that compounding of an offence has the same effect as an acquittal.

In the case of Murray v. Queen Empress,[3] the court defined compounding as meaning that the person against whom the offence was committed receives some gratification in exchange for not pursuing prosecution. This gratification need not be financial.

The Black’s Law Dictionary defines compounding a felony as "the offence committed by a person who, having been directly injured by a felony, agrees with the criminal that he will not prosecute him, on condition of the latter's making reparation, or on receipt of a reward or bribe not to prosecute.”

However, Sections 213 and 214 of the IPC still criminalise the acts of respectively receiving and offering gifts if the offences may not be legally compoundable.

The Court in the In Re: Policy strategy for grant of bail, Suo motu writ petition provided suggestions regarding compounding of offences. The court proposed the selection of specific courts as pilot cases to identify suitable cases for compounding of offences. These courts are instructed to identify cases pending at pre-trial or evidence stages, involving offences with a maximum sentence of 7 years' imprisonment, excluding certain specified offences. Notices are to be issued to the parties involved, informing them of the court's intention to consider disposing of the cases through compounding of the offence. Public Prosecutors are tasked with assessing the criminal antecedents of the accused, with only cases involving first-time offenders being considered. The court is directed to explain the provisions of compounding to the accused, allowing them time to consider their options. In cases where the under trial is in judicial custody, the court is to facilitate the provision of legal aid and explain the available options to the accused. Additionally, a timeline of 4 months is stipulated for the entire process, encompassing training of judicial officers, identification of cases, notice to the parties, and consideration of the matter. These measures aim to expedite the disposal of criminal cases and provide opportunities for resolution through alternative mechanisms while upholding the principles of justice and fairness.[4]

Types of Compounding

There are broadly two categories of compounding under Section 320—offences where the permission of the court is required to compound, and offences where the permission of the court is not required. Most compoundable offences which require the permission of the court are cognisable offences.[2]

For offences compoundable at the permission of the court, Kelkar summarises the considerations to be taken into by the court:

“While granting permission to compound an offence the court should act judicially and should exercise a sound and reasonable discretion. The safeguard of the court’s permission is to prevent an abuse of the right to compound and to enable the court to take into account the special circumstances of the case which may justify composition. While granting permission to enter into the composition and accepting the same, the chastened attitude of the accused and the commendable attitude of the injured complainant, in order to restore harmony in society, were taken into consideration by the court.”


The 41st Law Commission Report has made recommendations on the issue of compounding in the 24th chapter. The report identified that offences considered private and relatively minor are compoundable. Further, it argued that there can be no general principle or rule to determine whether an offence is compoundable or not, rejecting proposals for a general rule making all offences punishable by up to 3 years compoundable. It argued for clear and specific provisions like those in the existing law.[5]

Official Databases

Crime in India Report

Crime in India Report prepared by National Crime Records Bureau, contains statistics regarding disposal of cases through different methods, one of which is compounding of offences.

A snapshot of the data published by the report

This table shows court disposal of IPC crime cases in the year 2022, total number of cases compounded in the year were 175022.

Total No. Cases Compounded in the year 2022

International Experience

Like India, UK and US also criminalise the compounding of an offence outside of the purview of the law. However, neither uses the term ‘compounding’ to refer to legal compounding as well, instead using ‘out-of-court settlement.’ However, there is no strict legal framework in either of these jurisdictions, instead coming under the discretion of the prosecutor or a particular state in the US to frame its own laws on this aspect.

Way Forward

While data is limited, expanding the number of compoundable offences after careful analysis of their prevalence, severity, and societal impact can be considered. This is in line with reducing backlogs in courts and keeping cases out of the litigation. The focus must be on offences where compounding demonstrably benefits both parties and doesn't undermine public interest.

Secondly, victim consent procedures must be strengthened. Support and guidance services can be implemented to ensure informed decisions and address power imbalances, and to provide guidance and assistance throughout the compounding process, ensuring their rights and interests are protected.

For all this, however, the central importance must be given to data, on which there is not enough so far. Data should be a priority so that it informs policy going forward.


  2. 2.0 2.1 R.V. Kelkar and K.N. Chandrashekaran Pillai (ed.), Criminal Procedure (6th edn., Eastern Book Company), ch. 17.
  3. Murray v. Queen Empress (1893) ILR 21CAL103.
  5. 41st Report of the Law Commission of India, Ch XXIV.
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