The civil, as well as criminal courts, have certain powers which are not codified but are ingrained in the courts of law. Such powers are known as the inherent powers of the court. Inherent powers of the court hold a significant position for ensuring equity and justice according to the opinions of Jurists. The concept of inherent powers is the foundation of the whole armoury of judicial powers, many of which are significant and some of them are quite extraordinary and are a matter of constitutional weight.
In criminal jurisprudence in India, the inherent powers of the High Court are provided under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973. The Section reads as –
“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.”
JURISPRUDENTIAL BACKGROUND OF SECTION 482
The jurisprudential background of the Section was laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Dinesh Dutt Joshi v. the State of Rajasthan. The Court observed that “The principle embodied in the section is based upon the maxim quando lex aliquid alicui concedet, concedera videtur et id sine qua res ipsae esse non potest. This maxim means that when the law gives to anyone, it gives all those things without which the thing itself would be unavailable”.
NATURE OF THE INHERENT POWERS OF THE HIGH COURT
“The power conferred on the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution and under Section 482 of the Code have no limits but more the power more due care and caution is to be exercised while invoking these powers. When the exercise of powers could be under Article 227 or Section 482 of the Code it may not always be necessary to invoke the provisions of Article 226. Some of the decisions of this Court laying down principles for the exercise of powers by the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 may be referred to.”
Thus, it is essential that proper care and caution is practised by the High Court while exercising the inherent powers saved by Section 482 of the Code, which are unlimited in their scope.
DUTIES OF THE HIGH COURT UNDER SECTION 482
Section 482 provides that the inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 are to be used by the High Court “…to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure the ends of justice.”. Thus, the High Court has the duty to keep in check the procedure of any subordinate courts to ensure that no deviations from the rule of law are undertaken therein and to secure justice.
The Supreme Court in the case of Krishnan v. Krishnaveni observed that “The Power of the High Court, therefore is very wide. However, the High Court must exercise such power sparingly and cautiously. When the High Court notices that there has been a failure of justice or misuse of judicial mechanism or procedure, sentence or order is not correct it is but the salutory duty of the High Court to prevent the abuse of the process or miscarriage of justice.”
Thus, the High Court has the duty to ensure that there is no failure of justice, misuse of judicial mechanism or procedure and check if the sentence or order of the subordinate court is correct.
POWERS OF THE HIGH COURT UNDER SECTION 482
As was discussed earlier, the inherent powers of the High Court are limitless in nature and it is upon the High Courts to exercise this power in a cautious manner, or cautious ex debito justitiae. The Supreme Court in the case of State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal laid down various illustrations as to the discharge of the inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482 CrPC, 1973. The Court observed that the High Court may interfere and quash criminal proceedings in circumstances –
- “Where the allegations made in the first information report or the complaint, even if they are taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not prima facie constitute any offence or make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the first information report and other materials, if any, accompanying the FIR do not disclose a cognizable offence, justifying an investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except under an order of a Magistrate within the purview of Section 155(2) of the Code.
- Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint and the evidence collected in support of the same do not disclose the commission of any offence and make out a case against the accused.
- Where the allegations in the FIR do not constitute a cognizable offence but constitute only a non-cognizable offence, no investigation is permitted by a police officer without an order of a Magistrate as contemplated under Section 155(2) of the Code.
- Where the allegations made in the FIR or complaint are so absurd and inherently improbable on the basis of which, no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion that there is sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused.
- Where there is an express legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code or the concerned Act (under which a criminal proceeding is instituted) to the institution and continuance of the proceedings and/or, where there is a specific provision in the Code or the concerned Act, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
- Where a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended with mala fide and/or where the proceeding is maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the accused and with a view to spite him due to private and personal grudge.”
The Supreme Court in the case of Madhu Limaye v. the State of Maharashtra laid down the governing principles for the discharge of inherent powers of the High Court under Section 482. The principles enunciated by the Supreme Court are –
- Power is not to be resorted to if there is a specific provision in code for the redress of grievances of an aggrieved party.
- It should be exercised sparingly to prevent abuse of process of any Court or otherwise to secure ends of justice.
- It should not be exercised against the express bar of the law engrafted in any other provision of the code.
In R.P. Kapoor v. the State of Punjab, Hon’ble Supreme court went on to limit the powers of the Hon’ble High Court within the ambit of the Cr.P.C. It was held, “Inherent power of the High Court cannot be invoked in regard to matters which are directly covered by specific provisions in the Cr.P.C.”.
It is well settled that the inherent powers under Section 482 can be exercised only when no other remedy is available to the litigant and NOT where a specific remedy is provided by the statute. If an effective alternative remedy is available, the High Court will not exercise its powers under this section, especially when the applicant may not have availed of that remedy.
The Case of D. Devaraja v. Owais Sabeer Hussain
Recently the Supreme Court, through the case of D. Devaraja v. Owais Sabeer Hussain further broadened the scope of inherent powers which may be exercised by the High Court under Section 482, CrPC, 1973.
Facts – The Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate III, Bengaluru City took cognizance of a complaint by the respondent with respect to alleged ill-treatment and police excesses suffered by the respondent while being under custody of the police. The accused-appellant moved the High Court in respect to this as a previous sanction of the Government is essential before taking cognizance of a complaint against a public servant, acting in the discharge of his duties as provided under Section 197, CrPC, 1973. The High Court instead of quashing the complaint under Section 482, CrPC, 1973, remitted the complaint back to the Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate III, Bengaluru City with the instructions for the accused-appellant to apply for discharge under Section 245, CrPC, 1973.
The accused-appellant filed an appeal with the Hon’ble Supreme Court in respect of this act of not quashing the complaint despite the want of sanction by the High Court.
Judgement – The Supreme Court observed that “an application under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code is maintainable to quash proceedings which are ex facie bad for want of sanction, frivolous or in abuse of process of the court. If, on the face of the complaint, the act alleged appears to have a reasonable relationship with official duty, where the criminal proceeding is apparently prompted by mala fides and instituted with an ulterior motive, power under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code would have to be exercised to quash the proceedings, to prevent abuse of process of the court.”
The jury also observed that the High Court had mistaken by not exercising its powers under Section 482 as having a sanction from the Government before taking cognizance of a complaint in relation to a public servant, acting in the discharge of his duties is a recognized principle of law and has been expressly directed under Section 197, CrPC, 1973 and Section 170, Karnataka Police Act, 1963.
Section 482, in its current form, has seen several changes with the changing times and needs of the hour and by the Guidelines framed by the Supreme Court in several of its judgments. The Courts are constrained to do so as the said Section which gives wide powers to the High Court, was highly abused by the Law Practitioners. Section 482 of Cr.P.C has made its space in Cr.P.C in order to enable the High Courts to provide proper justice and at the same time to curb filing of fictitious complaints just to avenge personal grudges. The inherent powers are without any limitations and are well-recognized requirements of an independent judiciary. These inherent powers are not provided to the courts through some statutory provision but are ingrained in the very fabric of jurisprudence.
In the Indian legal system, inherent powers in respect to criminal proceedings are provided to the High Court under Section 482, CrPC, 1973 and to the Supreme Court under Article 142 of the Indian Constitution. Whereas, such powers with respect to civil proceedings are provided under Sections 148 – 153B of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
 M.S. Dockray, “The Inherent Jurisdiction to regulate Civil Proceedings” (1997) 113 L.Q.R.120.
 (2001) 8 SCC P.570.
 (1998) 5 SCC 749
 AIR 1997 SC 987.
 1992 Supp (I) SCC 335.
 AIR 1978 SC 47.
 AIR 1976 All 355
 Criminal Appeal No. 458 OF 2020.
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