Inherent Powers of the High Court in Criminal Matters

By | October 15, 2019
Inherent Powers of the High Court in Criminal Matters.

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Inherent Powers of the High Court in Criminal Matters | Overview

The article discusses the Inherent Powers of the High Court in Criminal Matters. The Indian Criminal Justice Administration seeks to prevent the offenders from committing any offence and thereby endeavours to protect society against offences.

The Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 empowers the criminal courts in India to bring an accused to justice and for that purpose; the legislators have drafter elaborate procedure in the Cr.P.C. However, the Code is not drafted to take care of each and every exigent situation that may arise. Therefore, they provided for Section 482, Cr.P.C. that deals with the inherent powers of the High Courts of States.

Inherent powers as the expression depict are certain powers that the courts may exercise in its discretion to do complete justice in a case.

Article 142 of the Indian Constitution provides inherent powers to the Supreme Court while Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides inherent powers to lower civil courts.

The backdrop of Section 482

The provision specifically aims to protect the inherent powers of the High Courts and curtail all such acts which tend to restrict or impede the exercise of power by the High Courts. This inherent power bestowed upon the courts can be exercised in the following situations:

  1. To give effect to any order passed by a subordinate court or the High Court under Cr.P.C.
  2. To curb the misuse and abuse of the power of the court to issue processes.
  3. To do any act which the court deems to be in the interest of justice or vital to meet the ends of justice.

The powers under this Section can be exercised only with respect to acts and judgments as mentioned in the provision and the High Court cannot perform any act which is beyond the powers granted above. It is ironical that the provision aims to protect the inherent powers of the court but still, it itself restricts these powers. However, the provision specifically allows the courts to perform acts to secure justice which is an open and wide provision covering all or any such act that the court may perform.

As aforementioned, the powers under Section 482 are broad in nature and can be performed only in exceptional circumstances. For this purpose, the apex court has laid down the following guidelines[1]:

  1. If there is any specific remedy for a grievance already provided for under the Cr.P.C, the court should not resort to the application of Section 482,
  2. The courts should ensure that the inherent powers are used sparingly and only for the purposes enlisted in the Code, i.e. to give effect to orders, prevent abuse and meet the ends of justice.
  3. If there is a specific bar in the Cr.P.C against the exercise of power under this provision, the courts should avoid using them.

Further, an additional guideline or prerequisite to the exercise of power under Section 482 was provided by the Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Arun Gulab[2]. The court observed that the power under this provision should be exercised ‘ex debito justitiae’. It means that it should be exercised only if the demand for justice requires it to be exercised and the High Court should not interfere with the exercise of powers of the trial court or take up such power upon itself in the name of justice.

To Abuse the Process of Court

The term ‘process’, in legal parlance, means any act done or taken by the court to allow the initiation of the proceeding or to ensure a smooth, fair and expeditious continuance of proceeding. For instance, the issue of summons to the witnesses, issue of a warrant to the accused, issue of notice to any person required under the law to be notified, etc. are called processes.

In Ganga Prasad v. State and Anr.[3], the court observed that at several times the case filed before the courts are with malicious intentions and only to threaten parties by the issue of processes by the courts. The court observed that, therefore, the filing of the case sometimes, in itself, is oppressive and the courts should not allow such abuse or misuse of the powers of the court. In Sankatha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[4], the court held that the High Court cannot exercise any such function under this provision which is prohibited by Cr.P.C or not allowed under given circumstances.

There is a twofold test to determine whether there is an abuse of the processes of the court or not:

  1. Whether a bare statement of facts of the case would be sufficient to convince the High Court if it is a fit case for interference at an intermediate stage.
  2. Whether in the admitted circumstances it would be a mock trial if the case is allowed

To Secure the Ends of Justice

The clause is specifically added in the provision to protect the independence of the judiciary and its administration of justice to the aggrieved. According to this part, the High Court can protect its powers to perform any act or function that may be required to be performed for the interest of justice.

The apex court observed in Madhu Limaye v. State of Maharashtra[5], that the conditions applicable to the exercise of power under Section 482 apply mutatis mutandis to the exercise of power to secure the ends of justice as well. Therefore, the court while taking a step to meet or conform to the ends of justice must ensure that:

  1. If there is any specific remedy for a grievance already provided for under the Cr.P.C, the court should not resort to the application of Section 482,
  2. The courts should ensure that the inherent powers are used sparingly and only for the purposes enlisted in the Code, i.e. to give effect to orders, prevent abuse and meet the ends of justice.
  3. If there is a specific bar in the Cr.P.C against the exercise of power under this provision, the courts should avoid using them.

Nature of Section 482

In Raghubir Saran v. the State of Bihar[6], the court held that the power under Section 482 is extraordinary in nature and should be used with due consideration to law and justice and the requirements of the Code. In State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal[7], the court stated that it is impossible to enlist an exhaustive list of situations or circumstances where the power under 482 can be used. However, the following circumstances can be considered fit to the exercise of such power:

  1. Where after the recording of FIR or complaint by the police or Magistrate respectively, the High Court believes that there are no sufficient grounds to believe the commission of an offence, it can reject the FIR and disallow investigation.
  2. Where the FIR recorded by the police officer does not disclose information sufficient to conduct an investigation or believe it to be a cognizable offence and initiate an investigation.
  3. Where the allegations concocted against the accused in the FIR or the complaint, as the case may be, are not substantiated sufficiently by the evidence.
  4. Where the information given to the police by any person does not disclose the commission of a cognizable offence but inclines towards the commission of a non-cognizable offence, the police officer is not empowered to conduct an investigation unless otherwise authorised by the court.
  5. Where the court believes that the information given to the police or the Magistrate is untrue and of a nature that it prima facie does not show any credible allegation to constitute a charge against the accused.
  6. Where the court has reason to believe that a proceeding is initiated and the case is instituted with pure malafide intentions or certain ulterior motives or wrecked vengeance.

Features of Section 482

The following is a list of feature or traits of the power under this provision of the Code:

  1. It is at the discretion of the High Court whether to accept or refuse the jurisdiction to exercise the power under this provision when a request is specifically made before it.
  2. The Section is not limited to the exercise of power in cases which are pending before the High Court itself but the court can use power in any case that comes to its notice.
  3. The power under this provision is exercisable only if the aggrieved party has no alternate remedy under any law of the land and he is subjected to grave injustice.
  4. The provision empowers the court to grant any relief to any person even though the person has filed a petition under this provision for such relief.
  5. The inherent powers derive its meaning and significance from its inception. It means that the reason why the courts were established shows their inherent powers. For instance, the civil court was established to resolve disputes and thus, civil courts can take any step to resolve such disputes. Supreme Court was established to protect the Fundamental Rights and thus, its inherent power is to protect such rights.

Conclusion

These powers as stated above are very unnatural and broad and very easily subject to manipulation and therefore, the courts are required to use it with wit and wisdom and ensure that no abuse of its power takes place. It has been a common scenario where a person suffering from a money dispute does not file a civil suit for recovery but a criminal case for cheating or dishonest misappropriation of money. In cases like such, it is necessary that the court intervenes and dismisses such efforts of abusing its powers.

References:

  1. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Commentary on the Code of Criminal Procedure (18th ed. 2006).
  2. C.K. Takwani, Criminal Procedure (3rd ed. 2011).
  3. K.N. Chandrasekharan Pillai, R.V. Kelkar’s Criminal Procedure (6th ed. 2014).

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

[2] State of Maharashtra v. Arun Gulab, AIR 2010 SC 3762

[3] Ganga Prasad v. State and Anr., AIR 1965 All 240.

[4] Sankatha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1962 SC 1208.

[5] Supra note 1.

[6] Raghubir Saran v. the State of Bihar, AIR 1964 SC 1.

[7] State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal,  AIR 1992 SCW 237.


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  • Shiv Shanker Mishra says:

    Hey Ashish, in the heading of “the backdrop of section 482”

    It is written in you article in point no 1 that “To give effect to any order passed by a subordinate court or the High Court under Cr.P.C”

    Can you give an example in which the HC has passed an order to give effect of its own order?

    any case law, anything will be appreciated. Quite liked your content.

    Thanks