Inherent Powers Of High Court

By | November 14, 2018
Inherent Powers of the High Court in Criminal Matters.


The object of the criminal law is to punish those who commit offence against society. Our country’s law of crimes is mainly maintained in Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 which came into force from April 1, 1974. It provides for the detection of crime, the collection of evidence, determination of guilt or innocence of the accused and punishment of the crime. In addition, this Code also contains sections pertaining to prevention of offences, maintenance of wives, children and parents, and public nuisance. The Code covers all the provisions related to crime and its punishment. However, if the court finds that there is no specific provision dealing with a particular issue it has inherent powers to pass orders which serve justice.

The Supreme Court has declared that no other courts other than The High Courts have the inherent powers. These powers are mentioned in Section 482 of Chapter XXXVII of the Code of Criminal Procedure (hereafter referred to as ‘the Code’).

Black’s law dictionary defines inherent powers as powers over and beyond those explicitly granted in the Constitution or reasonably to be implied from the express grants.

The principle underlying the inherent jurisdiction is “quando lex aliquid alicui concedit, concedere videtur ed it sine quo res ipsae esse non protest”[1] i.e. when the law gives anything to anyone, it gives also all those things without which the thing itself would be unavailable. The sole purpose of the inherent powers is to do the right and to undo a wrong.

Section 482 of The Code reads as:

“Saving of inherent power of High Court : 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.

Earlier the provision of inherent powers was maintained under Section 561-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 (hereafter referred to as ‘the Old Code’). The inherent powers of the High Court preserved by section 561-A of the Old Code are vested in the High Court by law within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The procedure for invoking the inherent powers is regulated by rules framed by the High Court and the power to make such rules is conferred on the High Court by the Constitution[2].

Inherent jurisdiction of High Court under sec 482 of Cr.P.C may be exercised:

  • To give effect to an order under The Code.
  • To prevent abuse of the process.
  • To otherwise secure the ends of justice.

The exercise of power under Section 482 Cr.P.C is not the rule but an exception[3]. The inherent power has to be exercised sparingly with circumspection and in the rarest of rare cases[4].

The Supreme Court has held that the following principles would govern the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction of the high court given by Section 482:

  1. the power is not to have resorted if there is a specific provision in the Code for the redress of the grievance of the aggrieved party.
  2. It should be exercised sparingly to prevent abuse of the process of court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.
  3. It should not be exercised as against the express bar of the law engrafted in any other provision of the Code[5].

In State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal (1992) Supp (1) SCC 335, Supreme Court gave guidelines stating the instances of a possible occasion where interference of High Court to quash criminal proceedings is justifiable:

  1. Where the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
  2. Where the allegations in F.I.R. and other materials, if any, do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers except under an order of a magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
  3. Where the uncontroverted allegations made in the F.I.R. or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
  4. Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to a private and personal grudge.

Difference between Appeal and Revision, and Inherent powers

Inherent powers of High Court are different from appeal and revision. The power of appeal and revision has been given to the court by the statute. So, High Court while entertaining cases under Section 482 cannot treat this power to be a substitute for statutory appeal or statutory revision[6].

Limitations of Section 482 :

Even though the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code is very wide, it has to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with caution and only when such exercise is justified by the tests specifically laid down in the section itself[7].

  • Inherent powers cannot be used as a measure of appeal after conviction.
  • High Court does not possess the power to review its judgment.
  • Interim order while the petition under Section 482 is still pending cannot declare the accused to be innocent.
  • High Court cannot usurp the jurisdiction of the trial court.
  • Inherent powers can be exercised by the High Court only over a court which is subordinate to it.

By – Priyanka Chauhan

Government Law College, Mumbai


  • The Code Of Criminal Procedure – Ratanlal & Dhirajlal

[1] Minu Kumari v. State of Bihar-2006 4 SCC 359

[2] Ratilal Bhanji v. Assistant Customs Collector, Bombay- AIR 1967 SC 1639

[3] Some Mittal v. Government of Karnataka (2008) 3 SCC 753

[4] R.K. Lakshman v. A.K.Srinivasan and Another AIR 1975 SC 1741

[5] Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1978 SC 47

[6] Dharampal v. Ramshri (1993) 1 SCC 435

[7] State of Karnataka v. Muniswami Air 1977 SCC 1489

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