The Inherent Powers of the Court
The abuse of the process of the court must be prevented by court as an inherent duty of the court. The Code of Civil Procedure is not exhaustive, the reason for this is that the legislature cannot be expected of pre-empting all possible circumstances which may arise in future litigation, and thus for providing the procedure for it. The court has as a result in quite a number of cases, where it is required by the circumstances, acted upon the assumption of possession of inherent power. This well known principle of law has been legislatively recognised in Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 which states that:
S. 151. 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.
Nature And Scope Of S.151
The provision contained in this section is merely indicative of the power of the court to make such orders as may be necessary for achieving the ends of justice, and also to prevent an abuse of the process of the court and does not confer any power. The court has been vested with such powers t make it capable to grant relief when the ends of justice and equity so demand, as such powers are of a wide scope and ambit. The Supreme Court in the case of Raj Bahadur Ras Raja v Seth Hiralal observed that ‘the inherent power has not been conferred on the court; it is a power in the court by virtue of its duty to do justice between the parties before it’.
This power of the court is limited to the extent that it cannot be exercised if its exercise is inconsistent with, or comes into conflict with, any of the powers expressly or by necessary implication conferred under the Code. If there are express provisions exhaustively covering a particular topic, that give rise to a necessary implication that no power shall be exercised in respect to that topic in any manner other than that prescribed by the said provision. Also, the power under S.151 cannot be exercised as an appellate power and it cannot be invoked to pass administrative and ministerial orders.
When Can An Inherent Power Be Exercised
Under S. 151 there are two major principles the court must take into consideration while exercising its inherent powers. The first being that the powers are to be exercised only for the ends of justice and second, it should be to prevent abuse of process of the court. Such power must not be exercised when prohibited or excluded by the Code or other statutes and in situations when there exist specific provisions in the Code applicable to the litigation at hand.
Power To Be Exercised Only For The Ends Of Justice
Courts have inherent power to pass interim orders for ends of justice or to prevent failure of justice. It has been observed by the Supreme Court that the interests of justice are the prime consideration in granting or not granting prayers in a petition under S.151 and no rule or procedure can curtail that power of the court. Where the order of the is in the interest of justice, the higher court can refuse to interfere under S.115, even if the court below has no jurisdiction to pass such an order. The interference in revision is discretionary and should be used only in interest of justice and not in a case where it is not. Illustrating example of this principle can be found in the judgement of the Patna High Court. It held that the fact that the dismissal could be reviewed or revised under O 47, should not come in the way of exercising power under this section. Likewise, interference on the grounds of safeguarding the rights of the minor as envisaged by S.31 of the Guardians and Wards Act 1890 was held necessary. The court can also interfere, in the interest of justice, with an order especially an ex parte order, which has been issued through its mistake, even suo motu. As in the case of any other case even in such situation the court cannot grant a relief under inherent jurisdiction, if the same relief can be granted by another court, under an express provision of the Code.
Power To Prevent Abuse of Process of The Court
According to Mulla the words ‘abuse of process of courts’, is defined 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.
The High Court has inherent power under S.151, under Letters patent, and under Art 215 of the Constitution to prevent abuse of its process. For an instance, it is an abuse of the process of the court when the facts germane to the issue are either not disclosed to the court or are not stated in the true sense of it. Inaccurate facts must be of such nature so as to enable the plaintiff to obtain the relief which he would not have got had he disclosed the correct facts. Inaccuracies which did not have such a result would not be sufficient to dismiss the cause.
Where a decree of the first appellate court has become final, by its not having been interfered with in the second appeal, an application for stay of its execution cannot be granted on the ground, either of abuse of process of court or in the interest of justice, merely because a review application against such a decree is pending.
When Prohibited By The Code Or Other Statutes
It is well-settled through a lot number of judgments that when a power is to be exercised by a civil court under an express provision, the inherent power cannot be taken recourse to. A court has inherent power unless it is not prohibited by the Code. Further, this section invests such power in the court, over matters which are in its jurisdiction and cognizance. The court also cannot ignore the provisions of law of limitations by appealing to this section. The period of limitation cannot be extended by the court in exercise of its inherent powers.
When There Are Specific Provisions In The Code
In the case of Manohar Lal Chopra v Rai Bahadur Rao Raja Seth Hiralal it has been held that the inherent jurisdiction of the court to make orders ex debito justitiae is undoubtedly affirmed by S.151 but that jurisdiction cannot be used so as to nullify the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. Where the CPC has express provision with regards to a particular matter, the provisions should normally be regarded as exhaustive.
S.151 gives inherent power to the court to make such order as may be necessary for the ends of justice or o prevent abuse of the process of the court; however same is required to be exercised by the court when there is no other statutory remedy available to parties to redress their grievances. In Ram Chand & Sons Sugar Mills Pvt Ltd v Kanhayalal Bhargav, the court observed that, the inherent power of the court ‘is in addition to and complimentary to the powers expressly conferred, but that power will not be exercised if its exercise is inconsistent with, or comes in conflict with any of the powers expressly or by necessary interpretation conferred by the other provisions of the Code. If there are express provisions exhaustively covering a particular topic, they give rise to a necessary implication that no power shall be exercised in respect of the said topic otherwise than in the manner provided by the said provision. The limitations imposed by construction on the provision of section 151 do not control the undoubted power of the court to make a suitable order to prevent abuse of the process of the court.
Appeal, Review And Revision
The Madras High Court has held that an appeal and a second appeal lies from an order made under S.151, in execution, or for the restitution; whereas the Lahore and Patna High Courts have held that no appeal lies from an order made by a court in its inherent jurisdiction. Orders granting temporary injunction ex parte or refusing to grant injunction under S.151 is not appealable. When the order purports to have been passed under S.151 and not under Order 39 rule 1 only a revision will lie against the order.
It is well-settled that when an application for maintenance is submitted in partition suit by the plaintiff, with the property in possession of the defendant and the plaintiff is entitled to have maintenance out of the joint family property; such application is entertained in view of S.151 and not under O 39 or any other provision. Therefore, as against such order, the miscellaneous appeal is misconceived since O 42 is not applicable to such orders. Thus, the miscellaneous appeal as against the order against the order of maintenance was not tenable in law.
The review/recall petition against the consent decree does not lie. If the evidence on record discloses that one party has played fraud on the other party, in such event the party against whom the fraud is played has the only remedy to file a separate suit for setting aside the decree obtained by fraud. But, if it proved that one of the parties has played fraud on the court then review petition is maintainable under S. 151 CPC. The court has no inherent power to review its decision where order allowing amendment of plaint was absolutely clear and unambiguous and was duly pronounced.
Supreme Court on carefully examining the various provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure which provides or contemplates filing of an appeal, came to an conclusion that there are no such provisions available to the appellant to file an appeal against the order made by the trial court on an application filed under S.151. In consideration of the above view, revision petition against the said order was not maintainable. There is neither any merit nor any scope for interference by high court, particularly when the application is under Order 21 rule 29 read with S.151 was not tenable. There is no power to interfere with the impugned order in the exercise of revisional jurisdiction under S.115. The order if not regular may not be interfered with revision if it is made irregularly or even improperly unless grave injustice or hardship would result from a failure to do so.
It cannot be expected that the legislator will be capable in forming of the Code of Civil Procedure of foreseeing every possible situation which may arise or of creating an exhaustive list of circumstances in which an existing provision may apply. To counter the situations of abuse of the process of the court, certain inherent powers have been recognized to be vested with the courts. This is to meet the ends of justice and equity in cases where provisions of law are not explicit or applicable. Such powers have also been granted to the court to assist in obtaining the motive of avoiding the abuse of the process of the court as it one of the most substantial duties of the court. Though, this power of the court is not unduly far-reaching and unrestricted. S.151 which gives legislative recognition to inherent powers is restricted by certain construction the section where the court cannot exercise its powers when provision for any action or matter is explicitly prohibited by the Code or any other statute; or where there exists a provision of the Code applicable to the matter at hand. Through an analysis of the various case laws it has been established that inherent powers must be exercised only for the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of court as long as it is not in contravention of any other existing law or provision.
Under the Indian judiciary, a codified statute such as the Code of Civil Procedure aims at making the judicial process uniform and unbiased. Working in this view the legislative process takes due cognizance of the fact that not all situations can be pre-empted and it holds good for even for their procedures to be followed. S.151 is in essence validates this fact by recognsing the courts ability in granting justice in even those situations where the Code of Civil Procedure or any other statute is not applicable and or finds itself unequipped to render proper justice and avoid misuse of the process of the court, if any.