Inherent powers of the High Court
The Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) preserves some awesome inherent powers to the High Court to make such orders that are necessary:
- to give effect to any order under the Code,
- to prevent abuse of the process of any court, or
- to secure the ends of justice.
Inherent powers are quite different from statutorily prescribed powers. They have to be exercised by the court only to meet the eventualities specifically laid down by law as its purposes. They should not be resorted to like the statutorily prescribed remedy of appeal or revision, but to be used sparingly, carefully and with abundant caution so as to avoid any misuse.
The High Court (HC) can exercise the jurisdiction suo moto in the interest of justice even while exercising other jurisdiction such as appellate or revisonal.
Why such inherent powers?
The CrPC is intended to be an exhaustive code to deal with every kind of eventualities in the matter of criminal procedure. However, when the HC finds no specific provision to meet some exigencies in some situations the Section 482 of the CrPC comes into play so as to cover up the inadequacy of provisions in order to meet the ends of justice which the court is expected to render. Subordinate courts have no such inherent powers. When the exercise of power would go inconsistent with any specific provision of the Code the provision cannot be invoked. That means the Section comes into play only when the Code does not have a provision to meet a peculiar situation that then arises. In non-criminal proceedings, the Section has no applicability.
The terms, “abuse of process” and “to secure the ends of justice” have not been defined or described in the Code. Therefore it is for the Court to decide whether a particular situation comes under the definition of the Section 482 of CrPC or not. The inherent powers of the high court have to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with utmost caution.
No formal application necessary to invoke it
No formal application is necessary for the court to exercise or invoke such inherent powers. The High Court can exercise the jurisdiction suo moto. In both substantive and procedural matters the powers can be exercised. The powers can be used in both incidental and supplemental matters.
When quashing can be resorted to
The High Court has powers to quash any proceedings in exercise of its inherent powers when the complaint or even charge sheet does not disclose any offence or when the complaint was frivolous, vexatious or oppressive in nature. Even uncalled for remarks of judges can also be quashed under the Section.
To quash a case it must be examined whether a criminal offence is constituted or not at the face of the allegation. Any frivolous, vexatious or oppressive proceeding can be quashed. The quashing of the complaint must be taken at the threshold before evidence is taken in support of the complaint.
The inherent power is an extra ordinary one available to the litigant. The Section must be used in appropriate cases to do real and substantive justice sparingly with circumspection, in rarest of rare cases. It can as well be used when continuance of the case would be an abuse of powers of the court or when the ends of justice require it.
Quashing of the case at an advance stage is an abuse of the powers of the court. But when the trial court disregards the laid down procedures while proceeding, such proceedings can be quashed.
While exercising the inherent powers the High court would not embark on an enquiry whether the allegations in the complaint are likely to be established by evidence or not, which in fact is the exclusive domain of the trial court. While exercising the power, the High court cannot look into the genuineness of documents which had not been submitted before the trial court.
Similarly the HC cannot quash proceedings when disputed question of facts are involved in the proceedings.
Quashing on ground of compromise illegal
The quashing of any non-compoundable case on the sole ground of compromise between the parties in any serious and heinous offences of mental depravity such as murder, rape, dacoity etc is not permissible.
However, if the offence is predominantly of a civil nature as in commercial transactions or matrimonial cases or family disputes, the court can quash the proceedings when the parties arrive at a settlement even though it is a non- compoundable offence.
The corruption cases or offences by public servants should not be quashed on the basis of compromise between the victims and the offender.
Offences under Section 307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Arms Act are serious ones. Such offences are unacceptable crimes not only against the individual but also against the society at large. In such cases the accused will have to face trial and come out unscathed.
Antecedents to be considered
In quashing a proceeding the court should consider the antecedents of the accused, his conduct and how he managed the complainant to come to a compromise, if one is arrived at. Mechanical exercise of powers under the Section is not maintainable in law. The court must regard the nature and gravity of the crime which has a serious impact on the society.
The court should examine whether the offence is incorporated just for enlarging the gravity of the crime, or not after carefully gathering sufficient evidence. It should also consider whether the case would lead to any serious offence when proved. Gravity of the offence is something that the court must take note of seriously while exercising inherent powers. Such an exercise of discretion is not permissible at the investigation stage but possible only after evidence collection, charge framing and during trial.
In matrimonial and family type cases, the HC must quash the proceedings if the possibility of conviction is remote and bleak. If the continuance of such proceedings would put the accused to unnecessary oppression, prejudice and injustice, it would be a case of definite abuse of the process of law.
The quashing under Section 482 of the CrPC and compounding are conceptually quite different things. The HC can quash even in non-compoundable cases when parties arrive at a settlement and if the offence is not something that goes against the society at large. A person wrong is quite different from a social wrong.
The court can reject compounding
The court can reject application for compounding even if the offence is a compoundable one, like the one under Section 420 of the Indian Penal code (IPC), if the nature of the offence has adverse effect or social impact on the society at large.
Situations where the provision can be invoked
In State of Haryana v Bhajanlal (1992), the Supreme Court enlists some of the situations where Section 482 can be invoked. The most important ones among them are:-
- Where the allegations do not prima facie constitute any offence if they are taken together
- Where the allegations are so absurd and improbable to a prudent man to proceed further as an offence.
- Where there is any specific legal bar to proceed with the allegation
- Where there is any malafide motive for the complainant against the accused.
It is quite difficult to lay down inflexible rules governing the exercise of this power, the court says.
The Section is a reservoir of powers
The Section 482 of the CrPC is a reservoir of powers to be drawn by the litigants where the channels of other legal remedies under the Code are dried up. The inherent powers of the High Court are sweeping and awesome. Inherent power is of wide plenitude and has no statutory limitation except the specifically enlisted ones.
It is quite inadvisable for the court to expand the ambit of the section so as to include such things that are specifically excluded by the Code itself. In other words, the things that are specifically excluded by the Code should not be enlivened by bringing them under the operation of the Section 482 - the court’s inherent powers.
Case laws for additional reading
- Gian Singh v State of Punjab 2012(4) KLT 108
- Parbatbhai Aahir v State of Gujarat : 2017 (5) KHC 192
- Narinder Singh v State of Punjab : 2014 KHC 4195
- State of Madhya Pradesh v Laxmi Narayan & Others : 2019 (1) KLD 546 (SC)
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