INHERENT POWERS OF THE COURT

By | September 15, 2016

Meaning: The word “Inherent” is very wide in itself. It means existing and inseparable from something, a permanent attribute or quality, an essential element, something intrinsic, or essential, vested in or attached to a person or office as a right of privilege.[1] Hence, inherent powers are such powers which are inalienable from courts and may be exercised by a court to do full and complete justice between the parties before it.

There are many sections in the CPC that provides for the same i.e. Section 148, 148-A, 149, 150, 151, 152, 153 and 153-A of CPC.

Principle: In the cases where the C.P.C does not deal with, the Court will exercise its inherent power to do justice. If there are specific provisions of the C.P.C dealing with the specific issue and they expressly or by basic implication, then the inherent powers of the Court cannot be invoked as inherent powers itself means those which are not specified in C.P.C.

The section confers on the judges to make such orders that may be necessary to make justice achievable. The Power can be invoked to support the provisions of the code but not to override or evade other express provisions as C.P.C. is the basic law which governs the functioning of the courts.

Judicial Interpretations

  1. Alternative for ‘No other remedy:

In the absence of any special circumstances which amount to the abuse of the process of the Court, it cannot grant a relief in exercise of its inherent power when the justice can be served by another remedy is available to the party concerned provided by the Code.

No Powers over the Substantive Rights: The inherent powers saved by s. 151 of the Code are not over the substantive rights which any litigant possesses. Specific powers have to be conferred on the Courts for passing such orders.

In Ram Chand and Sons Sugar Mills v. Kanhayalal[2]: the SC held that the Court would not exercise its inherent power under S.151 CPC if it was inconsistent with the powers expressly or impliedly conferred by other provisions of Code. It had opined that the Court had an undoubted power to make a suitable order to prevent the abuse of the process of the Court.

  1. To Advance Interests of Justice:

In M/s. Ram Chand & Sons Sugar Mills Pvt. Ltd. Barabanki (U.P.) v. Kanhayalal Bhargava[3], the appellant contended that during the pendency of the first suit, certain subsequent events had taken place due to which the first was not fruitful and in law the said suit could not be kept pending and continued solely for the purpose of continuing an interim order made in the said suit. While examining the question the Supreme Court was to consider whether the court can take cognizance of a subsequent event to decide whether the pending suit should be disposed or not. The question arose was whether a defendant could make an application under Section 151 CPC for dismissing the pending suit on the ground that the said suit has lost its cause of action. The Court upheld the contention.

  1. Restoration of Money Suit–

Bahadur Pradhani v. Gopal Patel[4]– In this case, the plaint of a Money Suit was rejected for non-payment of deficit court fee within the time granted by the court. The plaintiff filed a petition under Section 151, C.P.C. for the restoration of the suit in the ends of justice. The court allowed the petition and the suit were restored to file. This Court examined the scope of the inherent powers of the Court and expressed that the provisions of the Code do not control the inherent powers of the court by limiting it or otherwise affecting it. It is a power inherent in the court by virtue of its duties to do justice between the parties before it.

When there is no scope for getting any relief:- It was held in the case of  Manoharlal v. Seth Hiralal[5] that the provisions of the Code are not exhaustive as the legislature is incapable of contemplating all possible circumstances which may arise in future litigation.

Enlargement of Time: Section 148

The court has the power to enlarge the said period even if the original period fixed has been expired. Where the court in the exercise of its jurisdiction can grant time to do a thing, in the absence of the specific provision to the contrary, denying or withholding such jurisdiction, the jurisdiction to grant time would include in its ambit the jurisdiction to extend time initially fixed by it. This power is discretionary and so the court is entitled to take into account the conduct of the party praying for such extension. The party cannot claim this power as their right.

Payment of Court Fees: Section 149

The Section 149 of the Code authorizes the court to allow a party to make up the deficiency of court fees payable on a plaint, memorandum of appeal, etc. even after the expiry of the period of limitation prescribed for the filing of such suit, appeal etc. Under the provisions of S. 149, C.P.C., as a practice, the courts’ grant time for payment of the court-fee on coming to an adverse conclusion on a paper application.[xiii] Section 4 of the Court Fees Act, 1870 provides that no document chargeable with court fee under the act shall be filed or recorded in any court of justice unless the requisite court fee is paid.

WHAT IS THE SCOPE OF INHERENT POWER EXERCISED BY THE COURT UNDER SECTION 151 OF THE CPC?

More than seven decades back, the Privy Council in the case of Emperor v. Khwaja Nazir Ahmed[6], observed that Section 561A (corresponding to Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) had not given increased powers to the Court which it did not possess before that section was enacted. It was observed

“The section gives no new powers, it only provides that those which the court already inherently possess shall be preserved and is inserted lest, as their Lordships think, it should be considered that the only powers possessed by the court are those expressly conferred by the Criminal Procedure Code and that no inherent power had survived the passing of the Code.”

In the very recent verdict of K.K. Velusamy v. N. Palaanisamy[7], the Supreme Court upheld that Section 151 of the Code recognizes the discretionary power inherited by every court as a necessary corollary for rendering justice in accordance with law, to do what is ‘right’ and undo what is ‘wrong’. The Court summarized the scope of Section 151 of the CPC as follows:

(a) Section 151 is not a substantive provision which confers any power or jurisdiction over courts. It merely recognizes the discretionary power of every court for rendering justice in accordance with law, to do what is ‘right’ and undo what is ‘wrong’, that is, to do all things necessary to secure the ends of justice and prevent abuse of its process.

(b) The provisions of the Code are not exhaustive; section 151 says that if the Code does not expressly or impliedly cover any particular procedural aspect, the inherent power can be used by the court to deal with such situation, to achieve the ends of justice, depending upon the facts and circumstances of the case.

(c)  A Court has no power to do things which are prohibited by law or the Code, in the exercise of its inherent powers. The court cannot make use of the special provisions of Section 151 of the Code, where the remedy or procedure is expressly provided in the Code.

(d) The inherent powers of the court being complementary to the powers specifically conferred, a court is free to exercise them and the court should exercise it in a way that it should not be in conflict with what has been expressly provided in the Code.

(e)  While exercising the inherent power, there is no such legislative guidance to deal with those special situations of the case and so the exercise of power depends upon the discretion and wisdom of the court, and also upon the facts and circumstances of the case. So, such consequential situation should not, however, be treated as a carte blanche to grant any relief.

(f)  The power under section 151 will have to be used with  care, only where it is absolutely necessary, when there is no provision in the Code governing the matter or when the bona fides of the applicant cannot be doubted or when such exercise is to meet the ends of justice and to prevent abuse of process of court.

LIMITATIONS

It can be clearly seen that the inherent powers of the court are extensively wide and residuary in nature. Though, one cannot rule out the fact that the same inherent powers can be exercised ex debito justitae only in the absence of express provisions in the code. The restrictions on the inherent powers are not there because they are controlled by the provisions of the Code, but because of the fact that it shall be presumed that the procedure provided by the legislature is dictated by ends of justice.

CONCLUSION

Section 151 CPC is not a substantive provision. Sections 148-153A bestow the courts with very wide and extensive powers to minimize litigation, avoid multiplicity of proceedings and render full and complete justice between the parties before them. Sec 151 saves inherent power of the court, which is supposed to be exercised ex debito justitae, i.e., in the interest of the justice. These powers are not conferred upon the court. In the end, one has to look up to the judgment of J. Subbarao who made a very poignant observation in the case of Ram Chand & Sons Sugar Mills Ltd. V. Kanhayalal Bhargava.

“Whatever limitations are imposed by the construction of the provisions of Section 151 of the Code, they do not control the undoubted power of this court conferred under section 151 of the Code to make a suitable order to prevent the abuse of the process of the court.”

[1] Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2002)

[2] [1961] 1 S.C.R. 884

[3] Ibid

[4] AIR 1964 Ori 134

[5] 1962 AIR 527

[6] (1945) 47 BOMLR 245

[7] (2011) 11 SCC 275

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