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Inherent Powers of the Civil Court
The legislature makes law, which defines the rights and obligations of the citizens. There are special laws that deal with a special type of right. The legislature takes comprehensive measures to consider the majority of the situations and circumstances that existed at the time the law was made. However, as time passed, those situations and circumstances changed significantly, necessitating the adoption of new laws or the modification of existing ones. No doubt, the legislature has sufficient power to amend any law so as to make it compatible with the present requirement.
However, there are numerous situations faced by the courts wherein the court finds that the statute is silent on a particular aspect of the matter and there is actually no provision for dealing with an emergent situation. The inherent power of the court to deal with such an emergent situation comes into play in that emergent situation.
Legal provisions for inherent powers of the court
The inherent powers of the civil court are provided under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure (1908). The section reads as
"Saving of inherent powers of the Court: 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."
This provision clearly defines that the inherent powers of the court may be exercised under two conditions: (1) for the purposes of justice, and (2) to prevent abuse of the Court's process.
The inherent powers of civil courts provided under Section 151 are available to all civil courts, i.e., from the trial judge to the Supreme Court.
What are the ends of justice?
The main function of the court is to give justice to the aggrieved party, and if the court sees any hindrance in the way of doing justice due to any reason whatsoever, the court has the inherent power to remove all hindrances and obstacles. For example, it is in the interests of justice to compensate for an injury or damage while avoiding unnecessary expense or inconvenience to the parties. Further, it will not be in the interests of justice to exercise the inherent powers of the court if it would cause mischief or injustice to the other party or otherwise interfere with the rights of third parties.
What constitute the abuse of the process of court
The misuse of the legal process against an innocent person or for an ulterior motive to gain illegal or unjustified benefits is generally referred to as abuse of the court process.
Application of inherent power
Inherent powers of the court can be exercised only under two conditions, namely, for the ends of justice and to prevent abuse of the process of the court as mentioned under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908. Further, the civil court shall use its inherent powers to redress only those grievances for which no remedy is provided under the Code of Civil Procedure.
Inherent powers of the court can be exercised to prevent abuse of the court's process in case where the execution of a valid decree of the court has been sought to be stayed by a party who was not a party to the suit in which the said decree was passed.
Inherent powers of the court may use for the justice in a case where the code of civil procedure does not provide for the consolidation of suits, but in the interest of justice, the civil court may use its inherent powers to consolidate the two suits pending between the parties on substantially the same issues of law.
When inherent powers cannot be used
The inherent powers provided to the civil courts cannot be exercised in contravention of specific provisions of law. The implication is that if there is a provision for a specific remedy, a court cannot ignore that provision by using its inherent power to provide a different remedy.
The law is well settled on this point: when there is a specific remedy available under the Code, an application under Section 151 of the Code is not maintainable for that particular remedy. Further, the provision under Section 151 of the Code does not confer any extraordinary jurisdiction on the civil courts. Like the inherent powers of the court, they cannot be used to reopen settled matters. Similarly, the inherent powers of the court cannot be used to restrain the execution of a decree at the instance of a party who was not a party to the suit.
Further, there are specific provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure that provide for appeals from some specific interlocutory orders of the court. However, there are other orders that are not appealable. The civil court has no authority to allow an appeal from a non-appealable order by invoking the inherent powers.
In the matter of All Bengal Excise Licensees' Association v. Raghabendra Singh it was held that the court may use its inherent powers to set the things right and not to allow wrong things to perpetuate. The court is bound by the provision of section 151 to use its inherent powers to achieve the ends of interest of justice.
The inherent powers of the court must be exercised only in exceptional circumstances, for which the Civil Procedure Code does not expressly provide any procedure. The ends of justice and preventing abuse of the court process are two purposes for which the inherent powers can be used. However, the court should use its inherent powers with great caution and only in rare circumstances.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. What are the conditions mentioned under Section 151 of the CPC under which the inherent powers of the court can be exercised?
Ans: The inherent powers of the Court can be exercised under the following two conditions.
For the ends of justice and
To prevent the abuse of the process of the Court.
Q2. Which of the civil courts can exercise the inherent powers of the court provided under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure?
Ans: All the civil courts, from the trial civil court up to the Supreme Court, have the power to exercise the inherent powers of the court under Section 151 of the Code.
Q3. What are the conditions under which the inherent powers of the court cannot be exercised?
Ans: Using their inherent powers, the courts cannot suppress or ignore express provisions of law. The inherent powers cannot be used to provide a particular remedy by ignoring the express provision where a remedy is provided in law for a certain injury.
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