Feb 26, 2022

When can High Courts set aside an FIR?

The Bombay High Court has refused to set aside a First Information Report (FIR) filed by a woman against her male colleague for sexual assault. The Court said that there should be strict implementation of Supreme Court’s Vishaka guidelines which protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace, and forcing female employees to withdraw their complaints against male colleagues violates that protection. 


What should the High Court consider to set aside an FIR?

High Courts have the power to set aside an FIR if accepting it would result in an unjustified or unreasonable use of the legal process. The court follows some guidelines while deciding whether to set aside an FIR:


  • The court must evaluate whether setting aside the FIR will help the end goal of justice.


  • Courts can set aside the FIR even for non-compoundable offences i.e., serious offences which the parties cannot settle between themselves through compromise.  


  • The court’s decision to cancel the FIR should depend only on the facts and circumstances of the case, not whether the victim and accused have settled the dispute. 


  • The court must consider the nature and seriousness of the offence. Courts cannot set aside the FIR in case of heinous offences involving mental depravity, or offences like murder, rape and dacoity. Such offences are not just private matters, but have a serious impact on society and the court can decide to continue with the trial because of the public interest in punishing such offences. 


  • For criminal cases which have elements of a civil dispute, like crimes resulting from commercial, financial, mercantile, partnership or similar transactions, the courts can set aside the FIR in appropriate situations where the parties have settled the dispute. Here, the court should consider the possibility of a conviction, and whether continuing the criminal proceeding would cause oppression. 


  • Even for economic offences, the court should consider whether the offence involves the financial and economic well-being of the Government, i.e, whether it has implications beyond a private dispute between individuals. So, the court can refuse to set aside an FIR in a case of financial or economic fraud.

To know more about FIR, read our explainer.