The Civil Procedure Code does not define the term “inherent power“. They are the powers granted to the court in addition to those expressly granted by the code to ensure that justice is served and that the court’s powers are not abused. Inherent powers assist the court in unforeseen circumstances, as it is hard to anticipate all possible scenarios that may arise in the litigation.
The Supreme Court observed in Manohar Lal Chopra vs Rai Bahadur Rao Raja Seth Hiralal (1961) that every court is created to administer justice between the parties and must be seen to have all such powers as necessary to do the right and rectify the wrong in the administration of justice.
Inherent powers are implicit in (always to be found in) the court, which may be exercised by the court to do complete justice between the parties before it.
Section 148 to 153B of the Civil Procedure Code deal with the general powers of the court. Here’s a breakdown:
- Section 148 and 149 provide for grant and enlargement of time.
- Section 151 preserves the inherent power of the court.
- Section 152, 153 and 153A deal with the amendment in judgements, decrees, orders and other proceedings.
- Section 153B declares a place of trial to be an open court.
These sections are discussed below in detail.
- Enlargement of Time – Section 148 CPC
- Payment of Court Fees – Section 149 CPC
- Ends of Justice and Prevent Abuse of Power – Section 151 CPC
- Amendment of Judgements, Decrees, Orders and Other Records – Section 152, 153, and 153A CPC
- Limitations of Inherent Power
Enlargement of Time – Section 148 CPC
According to section 148 of the Civil Procedure Code, when a period is specified or given by the court for the performance of an act, that period might be extended by the court even though the original period has elapsed.
The word ‘may‘ indicates that the power is discretionary, and the court is thus allowed to consider the behaviour of the party who is requesting the extension of time.
The notion of equity is embodied in section 148 of the CPC. Because the parties cannot claim the extension of time as a matter of right, the court may consider all facts and circumstances, including the applicant’s conduct, before exercising the power.
Payment of Court Fees – Section 149 CPC
Section 149 of the Civil Procedure Code authorises the court to allow a party to make up for a deficiency in court fees due on a plaint, memorandum of appeal or other documents even after the term of limitation for bringing such suit, appeal, or other document has expired.
Section 149 of the Civil Procedure Code is a proviso to section 4 of the Court Fees Act, 1870, which states that no document subject to court fees under the Act may be filed or recorded in any court of justice unless the appropriate court fee has been paid.
The power conferred by section 149 of the CPC is discretionary, and the courts should exercise it wisely and in the interests of justice.
Ends of Justice and Prevent Abuse of Power – Section 151 CPC
Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code preserves the court’s inherent powers to secure the end of justice and prevent the abuse of the process of the court. Under this section, the court can:
- recall its own orders,
- correct mistakes,
- can set aside ex-parte order passed against the party,
- can issue a temporary injunction in cases not covered in the provisions of Order 39 of the Civil Procedure Code,
- can restore the suit and rehear it on merits,
- review its orders, etc.
In Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar vs State of Maharashtra (1966), the court concluded that what would meet the ends of justice would always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case and the requirement of justice.
The power granted by section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code can be used to prevent abuse of the court’s process, which can be committed by either the court or a party.
There is an abuse of process by the court itself when a court follows a procedure that may result in the miscarriage of justice. A party may be guilty of abuse of process if it obtains the benefits by practising fraud on the court or by instituting vexatious tactics.
Amendment of Judgements, Decrees, Orders and Other Records – Section 152, 153, and 153A CPC
All these sections are individually discussed below.
Section 152 CPC
Section 152 of the Civil Procedure Code provides that clerical or arithmetic errors in judgments, decrees, or orders resulting from any unintentional slip or omission may be corrected by the court at any time, either suo motu or on the application of any of the parties.
The section is based on the maxim Actus Curiae neminem gravabit, which means an act of court shall prejudice no one.
Section 153 CPC
Section 153 of the Civil Procedure Code confers a general power on the court to amend defects or errors in the suit proceedings and make necessary amendments.
Section 153A CPC
The Amendment Act of 1976 added section 153A to the Civil Procedure Code, which states that if the appellate court may dismiss an appeal summarily under Order 41 Rule 11, the court of the first instance may use the power of amendment under section 152 of the Civil Procedure Code.
Limitations of Inherent Power
Even though the inherent powers are fairly broad and residuary in nature, they can only be used if there are no stated provisions in the code. If there is an express provision in the code that applies to a specific issue, the court must follow it.
In Ramkarandas Radhavallabh vs Bhagwandas Dwarkadas (1964), the Supreme Court held that the court must exercise inherent powers in very exceptional circumstances.
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