By Amrita Dasgupta, South Calcutta Law College.

Inherent powers of the High Court under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure are unique in criminal jurisprudence. It is the most potent weapon for the High Court to clear the province of criminal law jurisdiction of all vitiating and malicious influences. The powers laid down in this section are not available to the subordinate courts for the obvious reason that there will be pandemonium in the criminal justice system. The inherent powers are available only to the High Court for reasons historical, jurisprudential and practical. Still the High Courts have to labour hard to wield the inherent powers without being erratic, slipshod or arbitrary.[1]

Section 482 was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act, 1923 as the High Courts were unable to dispense complete justice even if in a given case the illegality was palpable and apparent.[2]

This Section was introduced in the Code so as to enable the High Courts to render justice to the seekers and to penalize the lawbreakers either with fine or imprisonment or both. Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. states: “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”. But such powers can only be applied in exceptional cases.

Few cases in which High Court may exercise its inherent jurisdiction as laid down in R.P. Kapur v. State of Punjab, AIR 1960 S.C. 866 are as follows:


  • where any legal bar is there against the continuation of the proceedings,
  • where the allegations in F.I.R. does not prove the offence alleged, and
  • where the allegation has no legal support or where the evidence produced in favour of the charge does not prove the offence.

The inherent power of High Court comes into operation when any person is aggrieved by order of any subordinate court. But if such order is passed by any Executive Officer of the State, then in that case High Court does not have authority to exercise its inherent power. As the Inherent powers are vested in High Court by “law” within the meaning of Article 21 of the Constitution, therefore, any order of High Court in violation of any right under Article 21 is not ultra vires, for example, cancellation of bail bond by High Court thereby depriving a person’s personal liberty.[3]

In State of Maharashtra v. Arun Gulab Gawali and others, 2011, the court held that the inherent powers of quashing criminal proceedings may be exercised by the High Court in rare cases. Certain principles are also laid down in this case:

  • while exercising its power u/s 482 Cr.P.C., the High Court cannot intervene or “soft pedal” of justice,
  • powers delineated under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution and under section 482 Cr.P.C. are tools to foster justice and not to circumvent it,
  • in case of abhorrent offences, F.I.R. cannot be quashed by merely assuming that there will be no chance of conviction and that the victim is not supporting. It may happen that the victim may step back due to some kind of pressure or threatening.

Conditions for invoking the Section:

  • the power of High Court is discretionary and it may refuse to use the power
  • the jurisdiction is not limited only to pending cases, it also extends to appeal or revision or any other case which comes under its notice
  • the power can only be used if there is no remedy available for the aggrieved party
  • High Court may provide relief in any case even if the case has not been filed under Section 482
  • cannot exercise power under this section if the case is pending under the Apex court
  • This power has to be exercised sparingly with circumspection and in the rarest of rare cases. The expression rarest of rare case may be exercised where death penalty is to be imposed under Section 302 of IPC, but this expression cannot be extended to a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C.[4]
  • If the accused is harassed and the case is lingered even when the prima facie appears that the accused should have been acquitted

The High Court still has limitations of using its power under Section 482 which has been laid down in certain cases. Few of them are:

  • if there is an alternative remedy available, the High Court has no power to exercise its jurisdiction under Section 482 or even under revision jurisdiction (State of Uttar Pradesh v. Mohd. Naim)
  • The High Court cannot exercise its inherent power and do something which the Code specifically prohibits the court from doing (Sankatha Singh v. State of U.P.)
  • High Court while exercising its jurisdiction under Section 482 cannot order stay of arrest of the accused during investigation (Ashok Kumar Singh v. State, 1993)
  • High Court cannot direct compounding of offence not permissible under Section 360 of Cr.P.C. while exercising its power under Section 482 (Golak Chandra Nayak v. State of Orissa, 1993)
  • Impugned order of High Court does not warrant interference of the highest court (Dhanwanti Vaswani v. State, 1993)
  • High Court while exercising its power under Section 482 Cr.P.C. should not usurp jurisdiction of the Trial Court (R. S. Khemka v. State of Bihar, 1993)
  • Interference of High Court at a preliminary stage is not permissible (State of Bihar v. Raj Narain Singh)
  • Section 482 cannot be exercised to alter or reopen any order which has already been decided on merits and disposed of (State Rep. By D.S.P., S.B.C.I.D., Chennai v. K. V. Rajenderan and others, 2009)

The High Court has wide power under Section 482 of Cr.P.C. and thus the powers should be exercised duteously and properly. Court should use its discretion to deal with any matter taking into consideration all the relevant facts and circumstances.

The language used in the Section suggests that inherent powers per se exist in the High Court, and they have not been conferred by the Section. Section 482 cannot be invoked to contradict any expressed provision of the Cr.P.C. The policy of the Cr.P.C. and the Inherent Powers is the same, that is to do justice between the Parties, and therefore, there cannot be a conflict between the two. The Legislature while drafting the Code were mindful that all the situations may not be covered by the expressed provisions, and hence, Section 482 is a manifestation of Legislative wisdom to cover such circumstances may not be covered by any other provision. In other words, it is a residuary provision.