By Priyanka Agarwal, Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.
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 privilege1. 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.
The Code of Civil Procedure,1908, consolidated and amended the laws relating to the procedure of the Courts of Civil Judicature in India. The object of prescribing the procedure is to facilitate justice and further its ends2. What we can conclude out of the above mentioned object is that no party should suffer from the vice of justice and absolute justice must be provided.
Disputes can be varied and it is not possible to make a proper and rigid law for the same. If words of the code are restricted then justice will suffer a setback. As such there is no hurdle faced in furtherance of justice but the situation which the Courts sometimes face is the absence of provision to meet with certain reliefs, it is with this object to grant bonafide reliefs or exercise of power to do justice i.e. which can be exercised ex debito justitiae3, in the absence of express provisions in the code and in absentia of any procedure, inherent powers of Court and the scheme there under is engrafted under the Code of Civil Procedure. It is clear that Inherent Powers are complementary to those powers and the Court is free to exercise them for the ends of justice or to prevent the abuse of the process of the Court4.
In the very recent verdict5 the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld that Section 151 of the Code recognizes the discretionary power inherited by every Civil Court as a necessary corollary for rendering justice in accordance with law, to do what is ‘right’ and undo what is ‘wrong’.
Section 151 of CPC reads: “Nothing in the code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers 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.
Section 151 deals with saving of inherent powers of the Court and provides that nothing in Civil Procedure 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.
Section 151 delineates the inherent power of a Civil Court. It enables the Court to make orders necessary (i) for the ends of justice, or (ii) to prevent of abuse of process of the Court, and (iii) there is no limitation in such inherent power under the Code.
It is clearly specified that the Code has not created any new power but has preserved the power to act in the ends of justice and to prevent abuse of the processes of the Court, which existed in the Civil Courts per se, simply because it’s a Court of Justice.
Ends of justice
In other words, ‘ends of justice’ can also be understood as objectives of justice. In the case of Debendranath v. Satya Bala Dass6, 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”. In other words, it can be said that inherent powers of a Court can be invoked only for the attainment of the ends of substantial justice; Court may do what is fair and equitable7.
Abuse of the process of the Court
The phrase is generally used in connection with action for using some process of Court maliciously to cause injury to the other person. Here, abuse of process means the frivolous and vexatious use of legal proceedings8 and abuse of the process of the Court also means the malicious and improper use of some regular legal proceedings to obtain an unfair advantage over an opponent9.
The inherent powers exercised under S. 151, C.P.C. are discretionary. In considering the question of propriety in invoking the power, the Court should take into account several matters, some of which are the complexity of the question involved, availability of a more complete and efficacious remedy by means of a suit and the apparent justice of the claim. These are not exhaustive but merely illustrative. They would vary according to the facts and circumstances of each case. No hard and fast rule can be laid down.
The power u/s 151 cannot be exercised if its exercise is inconsistent with or comes into conflict with any of the powers expressly or by necessary implication conferred by the other provisions of the code10. It cannot be invoked as substitute for appeal, revision or review. In exercise of inherent powers, however, the Court cannot override general principles of law. It can only be for securing ends of justice and to prevent abuse of process of Court11Also it cannot be invoked to grant a relief beyond the scope of law12.
It can be concluded that Section 151 provides a door to the people through which they can walk and seek justice, where there is no relief available to them through other expressed provisions of CPC. The Legislature, while drafting the Code, were mindful of the fact that all possible situations might not be covered by the expressed provisions of the CPC, and thus, by saving the Inherent Powers of the Courts, a residuary clause has been facilitated, which will cover such situations. To make sure that the is delivered, the scope of Inherent Powers has been kept sufficiently wide.
1 Concise Oxford Dictionary (2002)
2 See Sangram Singh v. Election Tribunal, AIR 1955 SC 425
3 See Manohar Lal Chopra v. Seth Hiralal, AIR 1962 SC 527: 1962 Supp (1) SCR, Mahendra Manilal v. Sushila Mahendra, AIR 1965 SC 364
4 See Takwani C K, Civil Procedure, 6th Edn, 2009, Eastern Book Company at pg 729
5 See of K.K. Velusamy v. N. Palaanisamy, 2011 (11) SCC 275
6 See AIR 1950 Cal 217
7 S Mad 42ee AIR 1925
8 Serd Edn, reprint 2009, Lexis Nexise P Ramanatha Aiyar, concise law dictionary, 3
10 See Ram Chand & Sons Sugar Mills (p) Ltd. v. Kanhaya Lal Bhargava, AIR 1966 SC 1899
11 See Velayudhan Nair v. Kerela Ksheman Yunik Kuries Pvt. Ltd, Trichur, AIR 1988 Ker 223
12 See United Commercial Bank v. Mani Ram & Ors, AIR 2003 HP 63