The inherent power of Courts

Introduction:

‘Justice is the sum of all moral duty’– William Godwin

Law has been regarded as an essential element of the human society. It has been in existence since time immemorial and is even today with us in this modern era. One can feel the presence of the existence of law from the courts. The courts have served as an epitome of providing justice to the people of the society.

But who governs these courts? Is there is codified text?

The answer to this is yes. The courts in India are governed by the Code of Civil Procedure whose provisions have been drawn and written keeping in mind the idea of ‘ends of justice’ and the functioning of the courts. The code has also provided the courts some discretionary powers which are referred to as ‘Inherent powers’ which can be used in order to advance justice and prevent the abuse of the process of the court.

Enlargement of time:

 According to Section 148 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908[1] (hereinafter referred to as ‘CPC’), the court has the discretionary power to enlarge that time after the fixed time for it has expired. For doing that particular act, the extension given by the court can be upto a period of 30 days. This can be done by the court only in cases where there is no specific provision to the contrary. Thus, the power given to the court by CPC is discretionary and limited to the time duration fixed by it.[2]

Deficiency in Payment of court fees:

According to Section 149 of the CPC[3], the court, upon its discretion, can allow a party to pay the court fees which was payable but the party was not able to make the full payment at that time and the due still remains can pay off that remaining fees by invoking this section and it shall have the same force as if it was paid by the party in the first instance. Thus, this provision allows the party to make to whole or part payment of the court fees even after the expiry of the period of limitation.[4]

Transfer of Business:

Section 150 of the CPC[5] states that when the business of one court is transferred to another then that other court will possess the same authority and the duties as per the CPC.[6]

This provision can be explained through example. Let’s assume that there are two courts X and Y. When the business of court X will be assigned to court Y then all the powers and the duties will be same and in accordance to CPC.[7]

Inherent powers of the Court (Section 151):

The provision of inherent powers of the court is stated under Section 151 of CPC which states that the courts have the discretionary power or an inherent power to pass orders in either the interest of justice or to check the misuse of method by the court.[8] Thus, the court need not wait for the parliament or the higher judiciary to make laws on that particular subject matter.

The scope of Section 151 of CPC can be exercised in the following cases:

1. The courts want to recheck and resolve errors in its orders.

2. To issue provisional sanctions where the case doesn’t come under Order 39 or alongside an ex-parte order.

3. Setting aside the orders without jurisdiction or illegal orders.

4. The follow-up events of a case can be considered by the court.

5. Power to continue ‘in-camera’ trial by the court.

6. Erasure of remarks against a judge by the court.

7. Power of the court to re-hear or re-examine the case on its merits.

When the inherent powers of the court cannot be exercised?

The inherent powers are exercised by the courts in cases where the CPC doesn’t deal in or in simpler words where there is no specific provision in the CPC pertaining to that particular matter to impart justice. If express or specific provisions relating to that matter are there in CPC then the court cannot invoke its inherent powers or override those specific provisions since CPC is a basic law which regulates the functioning of the courts.[9]

The Supreme Court, in the case of M/s Jaipur Mineral Development Syndicate v. Commissioner of I.T[10] , held that the courts have the inherent power under section 151 of CPC to pass an order in interests of justice or to prevent the abuse of the process of the court, in-case there is no express or implied provision in CPC.

(A) Inherent Power to meet the ends of justice:

Before we discuss the inherent power of the court to achieve justice, let’s first understand the term ‘ends of justice’. The term ‘ends of justice’ were defined in the case of Debendranath v. Satya Bala Dass.[11] The Calcutta High Court stated that the words ‘ends of justice’ are solemn words and indicate that Justice is the pursuit and end of all law. Thus, for providing ends of justice, the court has the inherent power to recheck and resolve errors in its orders, pass an injunction in cases of Order 39, pass an ex-parte order against the party, etc.

The Supreme Court, in its various judgments, have highlighted that ‘ends of justice’ should serve as a prime consideration for deciding to grant or not grant prayers in petition under Section 151 of CPC and also stated that there is no rule or procedure which can curtail the inherent power of the courts to achieve justice.[12]

(B) Inherent Power to prevent the abuse of process of the court:

Section 151 of CPC also provides the courts, an inherent power to be used when there is an abuse of the process of the courts. The term ‘Abuse of power’ means that where one party is committing a wrongful or a fraudulent act on either the court or another party. An abuse of power also happens in cases where the court uses a wrong method which it should have never done and which further leads to failure in deliverance of justice. Thus, when such circumstances occur, the courts can decide upon the remedies under the provision of inherent power.

The remedy which is provided to party upon whom injustice is done is governed by the principle of actus curiae neminem gravabit, which means that an act of the court shall prejudice no one.

In the case of Ram Chand and Sons Sugar Mills v. Kanhaiyalal[13], the Supreme Court held that the courts have an undoubted power to pass suitable orders in order to prevent the abuse of the process of the court.

Limitations:

The inherent powers of the court are not absolute and thus have certain limitation to it. This power can be exercised in cases where there is no express provision in the concerned code, where the matter has already been decided, where there is deficiency of particular provision in the code, limiting a party from taking proceedings in the court of law, etc.

Conclusion:

From the above observations, it can be deduced that the courts have been provided by the CPC, a very wide and extensive set of powers which will be able to minimize the litigation, avoid the multiplicity of proceedings and shall uphold and advance justice to the people with whom injustice has been done and also prevent the abuse of the process of the courts.

Thus, the courts under sSection 151 of CPC have been equipped with such exceptionable powers which will act as an instrument in delivering justice even in those situations where there is no express or specific provision in either CPC or any other statute.


[1] Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, No.05, Acts of Parliament, 1908 (India).

[2] Gauraw Kumar, Inherent Powers of the Court under CPC, 1908, ipleaders (Jan. 3, 2021, 20:14 PM), https://blog.ipleaders.in/inherent-powers-of-the-court/.

[3] Supra note 1.

[4] Supra note 2.

[5] Supra note 1.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Supra note 2.

[9] Rishi Jain, Vasu Jain & Shaurya Singh Rathore, Inherent Powers of the Court under the CPC, academike (Jan. 5, 2021, 20:40 PM), https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/inherent-powers-court-cpc-2/.

[10] M/s Jaipur Mineral Development Syndicate v. Commissioner of I.T, A.I.R. 1977 S.C. 1348 (India).

[11] Debendranath v. Satya Bala Dass, A.I.R. 1950 Cal 217 (India).

[12] Umangraj, The Inherent Powers of the Court, Legal Service India (Jan. 5, 2021, 21:00 PM), http://www.legalservicesindia.com/article/1736/The-Inherent-Powers-of-the-Court.html.

[13] Ram Chand and Sons Sugar Mills v. Kanhaiyalal, (1961) 1 S.C.R. 884, 887 (India).


Authored By: Abhay Saxena, 4th Semester, New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University, Pune.

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