Section 151 of Code of Civil Procedure also referred as CPC 151 deals with “Saving inherent powers of the Court,” which is the subject of this section. Nothing in the CPC should be construed as limiting or affecting the inherent jurisdiction of the Court to make such directions as may be necessary for the sake of justice or to limit abuse of the process of the Court.’ Courts aren’t obligated to wait for parliament to pass a law or the Supreme Court to issue an order. In order to maintain the integrity of the justice system and prevent abuse of the court’s methods, the court has the authority to issue orders that are not mandated by statute.
Section 151 of the CPC can be exemplified by the following examples:
- The court has the option of re-examining its orders in order to correct any inconsistencies.
- An interim sanction may be issued in cases not covered by order 39 or for use in conjunction with a ‘ex parte’ order.
- Set-aside orders can be used to invalidate orders that were issued in violation of the law or without authority.
- The court may take into account events that transpired after the filing of the lawsuit;
- The ability of a court to continue a trial “in camera” or to keep proceedings secret;
- The court has the power to remove comments made about a judge;
- Re-hearing on merit or re-examining the court’s order are all options available to improve the case.
Scope of Section 151
An inherent ability to prevent court misuse is provided under Sec 151 CPC. It’s possible that a party or the court itself is abusing its authority when this occurs. In cases where the court misuses its authority, the parties involved ought to be compensated on the basis that the court’s actions should not harm anyone. A Remedy must be supplied based on inherent powers when a party defrauds a court or another party to a procedure in some way. Inherent powers must be used to stop anyone from evading the law, instituting multiple legal processes, or otherwise obstructing or delaying the course of justice. As a result, any attempt to gain an unfair advantage over the opposing party or to introduce scandalous or disagreeable material into the proceedings must be stopped to guarantee that the court process is not exploited.
More than seven decades ago, in Emperor v. Khwaja Nazir Ahmed, the Privy Council noted that Section 561A (equivalent to Section 482) of the Code did not grant the Court any new powers. It was found that:
There are no new powers conferred on the court by this section; rather, it ensures that the inherent powers of the court are preserved, lest, as their Lordships believe, the court be seen as possessing only those powers explicitly granted by the Criminal Procedure Code and no inherent powers had survived its adoption.
Section 151 of the Code, which was recently upheld in a recent case by the Supreme Court, recognises the discretionary power inherited by every court as an essential corollary for ensuring that justice is done in accordance with the law, to do what is ‘right,’ and undo that which has been done wrong.
Failure to Define “End of Justice”
As a result of the Code’s failure to define the phrase “ends of justice,” the case of Debendranath explained that these words should be taken as grave words rather than simply gracious articulations in legal methodology, as justice is considered to be the interest and ultimate goal of all law in this country. These terms, on the other hand, do not refer to ambiguous and imprecise concepts of justice in accordance with the established rules of the state. In order to exercise these powers, the Court must circumvent statutory rules in order to grant an injunction in a matter that is not covered by Order 39. The Court may also strike away from an ex parte order that has been entered against the party, among other things. Although the underlying notion behind it hasn’t changed, it still holds true that the Court can utilise these powers in the interests of justice, equality, and good conscience.
For his side, Mulla has defined the phrase fraudulent and unjustifiable use of legal proceedings as the malicious to further a cause of action or to achieve an advantage over the opposing party in a legal action by injuring them. When a Court in a matter accidentally adopts a procedure that results in a miscarriage of justice, the doctrine of actus curiae neminem gravabit is invoked, and remedies are granted as a result of the miscarriage of justice doctrine. The same is true when a party engages in actions such as acquiring benefits by committing fraud against the Court or a party to the proceeding, by bypassing legislative provisions, or by resorting to a multiplicity of proceedings.
Purpose of CPC 151
Section 151 of the CPC authorizes the use of inherent powers to prevent abuse of the legal system. The act of a court shall not disadvantage anyone if abuse of court authorities occurs in an unjust manner to a party. The remedy must be offered on the basis of inherent power when a party commits fraud in a court or a party to a proceeding.
It is said to be an abuse of power when a court utilizes a method to do something it is not intended to do and the judicial system suffers as a result of it. On the basis of the doctrine of actus curiae neminem gravabit, the injustice done to the party must be compensated (an act of the court shall prejudice no one). When a party to a case does acts like obtaining benefits through fraud on the Court or as a party to the proceedings, the said party becomes the abuser, resulting in a multiplicity of processes, etc.
Inherent Powers of Court
There are many different definitions of “inherent,” but the most common one is that it refers to something that is inseparable, essential, or characteristic. A court’s inherent powers are those that it can use to deliver perfect justice to the parties before it. To serve justice in every instance, whether or not explicitly stated here in the law, is a duty that entails important powers, including the ability to render judgment even when no specific rule is present. This authority is referred to as the court’s inherent power because it is maintained but not granted by the court. A court’s inherent authority is addressed in Civil Procedure Code Section 151.
In K.K. Velusamy v. N. Palanisamy, the Supreme Court described the ambit of Section 151 CPC as follows:
- As far as substantive provisions go, the CPC’s Section 151 is not one of them. To do what is “just” and undo what is “wrong,” that is, to do everything required to attain the goals of justice and avoid abuse of its process, is all that this principle recognizes as a necessary corollary of the discretionary power inherent in every court.
- Considering that the Code’s provisions do not cover everything, Section 151 acknowledges and verifies that the inherent power can be employed to deal with any scenario or feature of procedural law if the interests of justice warrant it. The extent of such power is directly proportional to the facts and conditions that necessitate its use.
- Purportedly exercising its inherent powers, a court cannot do anything that is against the law or the Code. For a given topic or aspect, if the Code contains provisions that expressly or necessary imply that they exhaust the court’s power or the jurisdiction that may be exercised in relation to it, the inherent power cannot be invoked in a way that conflicts with or bypasses those powers conferred by the Code. If the remedy or procedure is already included in the Code, the court can’t employ Section 151 of the Code’s special provisions.
- As long as the matter is not covered by an express provision in the Code, courts are free to use their inherent powers to accomplish the purposes outlined in Section 151, as long as the exercise of those powers would not conflict with what has been expressly provided or be contrary to the legislative intent of the Code.
As Bhagwant v. Kedarnath Kapur stated, the inherent powers of the Court, which are not bestowed by the Code, are apart from and in addition to any other powers that the Court may exercise under the Code.
It’s a safety net that just acknowledges an age-old and well-established principle: that every court has the inherent ability to administer the real and substantive justice between the parties for which it alone exists.
Power of Tribunals Under CPC 151
As a practical means of easing the judiciary’s workload, tribunals have been set up across the country. To this day, the presumption persists that tribunals do not have the same authority as courts, and hence their nature and powers must be challenged. Rather than relying on the nomenclature of a legal entity to determine whether the term “Court” appropriately describes the institution, S. D. Ghatage’s case matched the features of Courts with those of Tribunals. A recent case, Paras Laminates, showed the notion to be false, and underlined that the Tribunal is a statutory body with no authority to act outside of its provisions. Legislators have auxiliary powers because they want to employ expressly granted authorities effectively, not as these are inherently powerful.
However, unlike Section 151’s inherent powers, these powers do not supersede general principles of law.
A new Foreign (Tribunals) Amendment Order was enacted by the Home Ministry in 2019, permitting all states to have their very own Foreign Tribunals to resolve the issue of citizenship. Tribunals are given the ability to set their own procedures for resolving cases, i.e., they are given a wide range of powers that are both vague and ambiguous. To further complicate matters, only the Tribunals will hear appeals against an individual’s designation as a foreign national. Also, a Foreign Tribunal was made to issue a notice of hearing only if it found merit in the appellant’s appeal.
Limitations of CPC 151
On the face of it, it is evident that a court’s inherent powers are extraordinarily broad and residuary in nature. The possibility that the very same inherent powers can be employed ex debito justitae in the absence of stated provisions in the code cannot be completely ruled out. Not because they are subject to control by the rules of the Code, but because it will be considered that the method established by the legislation is governed by the interests of justice, there are constraints on inherent powers in place.
Suggestions and A Way Forward
Legal processes should be made more pleasant and fair in order to decrease the misuse of the courts. Legal views of how courts should exercise their inherent powers, as well as the limitations placed on those powers, should be incorporated into legislative guidelines and norms.
A preemptive provision of these rules must provide procedural remedies for future situations that may emerge but are not yet addressed by the Code. The courts must be persuaded to accept these codified norms in order for them to be effective. It may be possible to preserve S. 151’s aim if the Supreme Court and other higher courts were to assist lower courts and tribunals. If the courts want to use S. 151, they must do so with judicial restraint, which means that they cannot do so out of simple compassion or curiosity. In order to maintain the independence of the judiciary, judges must be given the freedom to carry out their administrative duties without interference from anyone.
Through the Doctrine of Res Judicata, these authorities must be employed to avoid the establishment of obstructive techniques and a multiplicity of processes (consolidation of suits). Because both the Court as well as the parties to a case might engage in the abuse, stiff penalties for contempt of court are required. Finally, if the courts follow the required criteria, it will be easier for the occupiers to focus on when these powers should be invoked.
- Sudipto Sarkar and V. R. Manohar, Code Of Civil Procedure, (LexisNexis, Haryana, 11th edn., 2006).
- Thakker, C. K. Civil Procedure. Eastern Book Company, 2000.
- “India Code: Section Details.” India Code: Home. Accessed 2 February 2022.
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