According to the oxford dictionary, the word “inherent” means “the basic permanent part of something which cannot be removed”. So by that definition, the term ‘inherent’ refers to something having a permanent, absolute, indivisible, essential, or distinguishing property. Court’s inherent powers are those that can be used by the court to render complete justice to the parties before it. These are basic powers which naturally are consolidated within the jurisdiction of courts to ensure Justice.

IRREGULARITIES IN LEGISLATIONS:


Laws are general rules and regulations, it cannot be assumed that a law or code, no matter how diligently framed by the legislative authorities, contains provisions for all the issues, problems and contingencies which may arise in the future sometimes these rules and procedures may become the reason of inconvenience and injustice and cause hindrance in delivering Justice rather than aiding it. The basic purpose of ‘law’ is to meet the ends of Justice and the legal provisions exist as an aid to the Justice delivery mechanism in the society, they are means to an end. Therefore, some legislative procedure or lack thereof results in injustice towards the society, and there is no remedy available, it is not only the sole responsibility of the court, but a necessity, to take such actions as necessary to meet the ends of Justice.

In the case of Debendranath vs. Satya Bala Dass AIR 1950 Cal 217, the phrase “ends of justice” was explained and it was held that:

ends of justice are solemn words and not mere polite expression in juristic methodology and justice is the pursuit and end of all law. But these words do not mean vague and indeterminate notions of justice according to statutes and laws of the land”.

The Code of Civil Procedure 1908, is the prime legislative code governing the civil procedure of India and to cater to this necessity has under Section 151 made provision for “Inherent Power of Courts”. The section states that;

Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent power of the Court to make such orders as may be necessary for the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the Court.”

The Code of Civil Procedure is not exhaustive, and Section 151 simply specifies that the court has the authority to issue such orders as may be required for the objectives of justice or to avoid abuse of the court’s procedure. Avoiding unnecessary expenditure and trouble for the parties is essential to protect the interests of justice. As a result, the Court will not deny relief simply because an application is filed under the incorrect provision or because there is a technical flaw.

NATURE AND SCOPE OF SECTION 151, CPC:


The application of Section 151 can be understood under two broad categories. First, to meet the end of Justice as it is mentioned in the language of the section and, second to protect the process of the court from abuse:

  • TO MEET THE ENDS OF JUSTICE: The main purpose behind the enactment of section 151 is to ensure Justice and to make sure nobody is denied Justice because there is no remedy available. The main purpose of the existence of Courts is to render Justice and this provision enables that. Although these powers are not exhaustive in nature, the court can exercise this power in the following instances
  • To correct their mistakes by recalling their order- Keshardeo vs. Radha Kissen, 1953 AIR 23;
  • Pass injunction orders only in cases not covered by Order 39- Manohar Lal Chopra vs. Seth Harilal, 1962 AIR 527;
  • Application of the third party to be made a party;
  • To set aside ex-parte orders- Martin Burn Ltd. vs. R.N Banherjee, 1958 AIR 79;
  • To add, delete or transpose any party to a suit Salia Bala Dassi vs. Nirmala Sundari Dassi; AIR 1958 SC 394.

These are only a few instances of the exercise of inherent powers of the court. The foundation of all these instances is that the court exercises these powers in order to do Justice.

ABUSE OF COURT PROCESS:


The famous jurist and author Sir Dinshaw Fardunji Mulla defines the words
abuse of process of courts’ is as follows:

Abuse of process of court, is the malicious and improper use of some regular legal proceedings to obtain an unfair advantage over an opponent. Nothing short of obvious fraud on the part of a debtor would render him liable to have his petition for insolvency dismissed on the grounds of ‘abuse of process of court. The term is generally used in connection with action for using some process of court maliciously to the injury of another person.”

Section 151 protects the court from such abuse of process and gives inherent power to the court to declare such proceedings as void. The abuse of the court process happens when the court process is manipulated in such a way that it leads to failure of Justice, and the party on which the injustice is so done shall be entitled to relief, following the doctrine of actus curiae neminem gravabit (the act of court shall prejudice no one).

The scope of the inherent power of courts was discussed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of  K.K Velusamy vs. N. Palaanisamy (2011) 11 SCC 275. The court recognized the discretionary power inherited by every court as a necessary feature for rendering justice in accordance with law under Section 151 of the Code. The court summarized the scope of Section 151 as follows:

  1. It is not a substantive provision, but it merely recognise the discretionary power of every court which is important for the protection of Justice in accordance with the 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.”
  2. Since the provisions of the Code are not exhaustive, Section 151 states that if there are no express or implied provisions in the code regarding certain procedural aspects, the inherent powers of the court can be used in such cases to deal with the situation;
  3. The court cannot use its inherent power, where there is a remedy or said procedure already provided by the Code. The court can under no circumstance use its inherent power to do certain acts that are prohibited by the law;
  4. The exercise of the inherent power of the court should not be in conflict with the express provision of the court;
  5. There is no such statutory direction to deal with such particular situations of the case while exercising inherent power, thus the use of power is dependent upon the court’s judgement and wisdom, as well as the facts and circumstances of the case. However, such a serious circumstance should not be viewed as a green light to offer any relief;
  6. The powers conferred to the court under section 151 should be used with absolute restraint, precaution and only when it is necessary or when the bonafides of the applicant cannot be questioned or when such exercise is to meet the ends of justice and to prevent abuse of process of the court.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in Mahendra Manilal vs. Sushila Mahendra, AIR 1965 SC 364, held that the inherent powers of the court may easily be recognised to be comprehensive and residuary in character. 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 limitations on inherent powers are in place not because the articles of the Code regulate them, but because it is considered that the method established by the legislature is governed by the goals of justice.

Also Read:  SEDITION & UAPA – Are These Provisions License to Abuse Power?- Complete Article

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Author:

Swadha Bhargav,
Pursuing LLM,
Nirma University