Section 151 of The Civil Procedure Code

The Civil Procedure Code

Introduction

Section 151 is a saving provision and gives legislative perception of an age old and well entrenched doctrine that every court has inherent power to act ex-debito justitiae and do the actual and substantial justice among the parties for which alone it exists. The inherent powers are constitutional in the court itself and have not been deliberated by the code, these powers are self-reliant of and in addition to any other powers that the court may apply under the code. Section 151 does not deliberate power on court , it only acknowledges or recognises the inherent powers of court by the virtue of its being a judicial forum meant to dispense justice.

 In Durga Dihal Das vs. Anoraj[1], it was held that the Code of Civil Procedure is not exhaustive. There will always be cases and precedence which are not enclosed by the express provisions of the code wherein justice is necessary to be done, because legislature can foresee only the most natural and traditional events and no rules can administer for all times to come so as to make explicit provision against all inconveniences which are enormous in number and so that their disposition shall express all the cases, that may apparently happen.

Meaning of Inherant power

The Code of Civil Procedure has not defined the expression inherent power. The Supreme Court in Indian Bank vs. M/s Satyam Fibres (India) Pvt Ltd.[2] held that inherent powers are powers which are resident in all courts especially of superior jurisdiction. These powers derive not from legislation but from the nature and the constitution of the tribunals or courts themselves so as to empower them to assert this virtue, assure obedience to its process and rules, defend its officers from indignity and wrong and to punish inappropriate behaviour. This power is indispensable for the organized administration of the court’s business.

Inherent powers of the court can be used only where law is silent on a point under consideration. Even when the Code is silent, the court cannot enforce its inherent power as to annul other specific provisions of the code. Inherent powers can be used only in circumstances for which the code does not make a provision and that too only to meet the ends of justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the court.

Object of Section 151

The object of the section is to reinforce and neither to succeed the remedies granted for in the CPC nor to override or deceive other express provisions. It cannot be invoked when there is express provision even under which the relief can be asserted by the aggrieved party. The operative field of power being thus confined, the same cannot be risen to inherent power. The inherent powers of the Court are in addition to the powers specifically conferred on it. If there are express provisions covering a peculiar topic, power under Section 151, CPC cannot be applied in that regard. Section 151, CPC confers on the Court power of making such orders as may be necessary for the ends of justice.

In the State of U.P vs. Roshan Singh[3], the supreme court held that it is well established that provisions of section 151, CPC will not be applicable when there is an alternative remedy.

Inherent powers of the Court

Section 151 reads: Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers 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.

Section 151 applies, for the ends of justice and to prevent the abuse of process of the court.

For the ends of justice , two rules affecting to the ends of justice may be noted namely—

  1. it is in the ends of justice that an injury should be remedied and excessive expense and inconvenience to parties avoided
  2. it will not be in the ends of justice to exercise inherent powers if it would interfere with the rights of the third parties or cause mischief or injustice.

In Lalta Prasad v. Ram Karan[4], the Court held that the words “ends of justice” in Section 151, wide as they are, do not mean ambiguous and indeterminate notions of justice, but justice affirming to the statutes and laws of the land. They cannot mean that certain provisions of the statute can be overridden at the dictates of what one might, by private emotion or arbitrary preference, can or conceive to be justice between the parties.

In Manohar Lal v. Seth Hira Lal[5], the Supreme Court has held that the Courts have inherent jurisdiction to issue temporary injunctions in the circumstances which are not covered by the provisions of Order 39 of the Code. The Court observed: It is well decided that the provisions of the Code are not exhaustive, for the simple reason that the Legislature is incompetent of intending all the circumstances which may appear in future litigation and consequently for providing the procedure for them. No party has a right to insist on the court’s exercising that jurisdiction; the Court exercises its inherent jurisdiction only when it considers it absolutely necessary for the ends of justice to do so.

In Vinod Seth v. Devinder Bajaj[6], the Supreme Court held that the provisions of the code are not exhaustive, Section 151 is intended to administer where the Code does not contain any particular procedural aspect, and interests of justice obligate the exercise of power to cover a particular situation. Section 151 is a provision of law deliberating power to grant any kind of substantive relief. It is a procedural provision saving the inherent power of the Court to make such orders as may be needed for the ends of justice.

To prevent the abuse of the process of the court , the Court has no power to abrogate the express provisions of the law. Hence, no appeal can be granted from a non-appealable order by enforcing the aid of this section.

In K.K. Modi vs. K.N. Modi[7], the Supreme Court held that the term “abuse of process of Court” signifies that the process of the Court must be used bona fide and properly and must not be misused. The Court will forbid its machinery from being used as a means of agitation and domination in the process of litigation. It is an exploitation of the process of the Court and contrary to justice and public policy for a party to relitigate the same issue which has already been tried and decided against him. The agitation may or may not be barred as res-judicata. But if the same issue is sought to be agitated, it also amounts to an abuse of the process of Court. A proceeding being filed for a collateral desire or a bogus claim being made in litigation may also in a given set of facts amounts to an abuse of the process of the Court. Frivolous or agitated proceedings may also amount to an abuse of the process of Court especially where the proceedings are absolutely groundless. The Court then has the potential to stop such proceedings summarily and forbid the time of the public and the Court from being wasted.

Salem Advocate Bar Association (II) vs. Union of India[8], the Supreme Court held that a party to a litigation may be liable of an abuse of the process of the Court, by attaining benefits by practicing fraud on the Court, or upon a party to the proceedings, or by misleading the statutory provisions, or by resorting to or encouraging multiplicity of proceeding or by instituting vexatious, obstructive or dilatory tactics, or by introducing scandalous or objectionable matters in proceedings, or by trying to secure an undue advantage over the opposite party.

Appeal from order passed under Section 151

No appeal prevails from an order passed by a court in the exercise of its inherent jurisdiction under Section 151, CPC. However the aggrieved person may file a revision from an order passed under Section 151.(Shiv Ram vs. Smt. Managara[9]).

An order passed in exercise of inherent jurisdiction is neither a decree nor an appealable order under order 43 and therefore no appeal lies against it.

Limitations

It is clear that the inherent powers of the courts are of wide amplitude and are exercised by the Court at relevant stage to restrict the abuse of the system and to cause proper justice to the parties, but equally true is that these inherent powers can be exercised ex debito justitiae, only in the absence of express provisions of the CPC, 1908 and also implementing judicial mind and looking into facts and circumstances of a particular case.

In K.K. Velusamy vs. N. Palanisamy[10], the Supreme Court after re-examining provisions decisions on the scope, ambit and limitations of Section 151, summarized the law relating to Section 151 as follows:

  • Section 151 is not a substantive provision which constitutes or confers any power or jurisdiction on Courts. It merely observes the discretionary power inherent in every Court as a crucial corollary for rendering justice in accordance with law, to do what is ‘right’ and undo what is ‘wrong’, that is, to do all things needed to secure the ends of justice and prevent abuse of its process.
  • As the provisions of the Code are not exhaustive, Section 151 acknowledges and affirms that if the Code does not absolutely or impliedly cover any particular procedural aspect, the inherent power can be used to handle such a condition or aspect. If the end of justice ensures it. The breadth of such power is related with the need to exercise such power on the facts and circumstances.
  • A Court has no power to do that which is restricted by law or the Code, by purported exercise of its inherent powers. If the Code contains provisions either expressly or by necessary implication exhaust the scope of the power of the Court or the jurisdiction that may be exercised in relation to that matter, the inherent power cannot be invoked in order to cut across the powers conferred by the Code or a manner contrary with such provisions. Thus, a Court cannot make use of the special provisions of Section 151, where the remedy or procedure is provided in the Code.
  • The inherent powers of the Court being complementary to the powers clearly conferred, a Court is independent to exercise them for the purposes mentioned in Section 151 when the matter is not covered by any particular provision in the Code and the exercise of those powers would not in any way be in conflict with what has been specifically provided in the Code or be against the objective of the Legislature.
  • While exercising the inherent power, the Court will be doubly vigilant, as there is no legislative guidance to deal with the procedural situation and the exercise of power depends upon the discretion and wisdom of the Court, and the facts and circumstances of the case. The absence of an express provision in the code and the acknowledgment and saving of the inherent power of a Court, should not however be considered as a carte blanche to allow any relief.
  • The power under Section 151 will have to be used with carefulness and caution, only where it is absolutely needed, when there is no provisioning in the Code governing the matter, when the bona fides of the applicant cannot be suspected, when such exercise is to meet the ends of justice and to forbid abuse of process of Court.

Where inherent powers can be exercised

The following are some instances in which inherent jurisdictions has been exercised by the court:

  1. To order joint trial,
  2. To postpone the hearing of suit;
  3. To stay cross-suits,
  4. To ascertain whether proper parties are before it or not,
  5. To set aside a sale brought by a fraud practised in the court,
  6. To entertain the application of third person to be made openly;
  7. To restore a suit dismissed for default in cases not provided by Order IV rule 9 which provides the setting aside the dismissal order and restoration of suit;
  8. To correct its own mistakes,
  9. To direct the parties to deposit additional fees,
  10. To review an interlocutory order made in chambers,
  11. To hold trial in camera,
  12. To allow amendment of pleading,
  13. In applying the principles of res-judicata to cases not falling under Section 11 of the code,
  14. In causing restitution to be made on reversal of a decree,
  15. In consolidating suits and appeals, even without the consent of the parties.

Where inherent power cannot be exercised

The court has no inherent jurisdiction:

  1. To strike out a defence,
  2. To grant injunction where requirements of Order 39, rule 1 are not satisfied,
  3. To amend the decree on an application by the auction purchaser,
  4. To grant interest after the date of the decree, if the decree is silent on the point,
  5. To consolidate suits based on different claims,
  6. To restore back a suit dismissed for non-payment of court fees,
  7. To entertain an appeal form or against order that are non-appealable,
  8. To compel parties to submit to medical examination or blood test,
  9. To order the return of security to a party in the absence of a prayer,
  10. To set aside an ex parte decree,
  11. To reconsider or review an order,
  12. No court has the power to circumvent the provisions of Section 10 of the code.

[1] ILR (1895) 17 ALL 29

[2] 1996 (7) SCC 135

[3] AIR 2008 SC 1190

[4] ILR 34 All 426

[5] AIR 1962 SC 527

[6] AIR 1980 All 20

[7] AIR 1998 SC 1297

[8] AIR 2005 SC 3353

[9] AIR 1989 All 164

[10] (2011) 11 SCC 275

Author: Vanshika Gupta (Maharaja Aggrasen Institute Of Management And Technology)

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