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Key Takeaways 

  • A micro examination of the roots of inherent powers exercised by the Supreme Court and the High Courts in situations of contradictions facilitated by provisions governing the particular cause or matter in front of them. 
  • Dissection of the word ‘inherent’ and the evolution of Section 482of the CrPC, Article 142, and Section 151 of the CPC and the case laws that have influenced them over time. 
  • Juxtaposition of the provisions granting inherent powers to the courts and how they are similar and different from one another. 


The courts hold cardinal importance in the functioning of a civilized and lawful society as they decide and set boundaries to the acts of the population of that very society. In order for them to keep performing these duties without any impediments from the codified laws which govern that society, courts are granted ‘inherent’ powers. These powers are separate from those already granted to the court by the codified laws, they are complementary. The word ‘Inherent’ in a literal sense means ‘involved in the constitution or character of something, belonging by nature or habit’ according to Merriam-Webster, in a legal sense it means ‘a permanent value attribute or quality which is inseparable’. Thus, inherent powers are incapable of being alienated from the court. 

In this article, we will be perusing the statutes: Article 142, Section 482 of the CrPC, and Section 151of the CPC, which deal with the inherent and discretionary powers of courts in India and juxtaposing them. 

Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure

  • Section 151 of the CPC is dedicated to saving the inherent powers of the court from any provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure that carry a risk of limiting or affecting the inherent powers of a court in any other way and granting authority to issue preventative orders to stop the transgression.
  • The court can re-check and edit its previous errors and issue orders for a rehearing to be conducted while re-examining a previous order, probably in the light of subsequent events. 
  • The inherent powers under section 151 allow checking for any possible infringements in the process of court or abuse of power. The slighted party can get relief on the grounds of partiality of the court.
  • This section does not override the substantive rights exercised by any ordinary litigant, passing orders on such issues requires conferring of specific powers. 
  • If the court was previously inconsistent in exercising its inherent powers granted by the above section, then it cannot exercise them further as stated in Ram Chand and Sons Sugar Mills v. Kanhayalal[Civil Appeal No. 166 of 1966] in which the SC opined that the court had all the power needed to prevent abuse of the process. 

Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973

  • It seeks to protect the inherent powers of the High Courts from any provisions of the CrPC seeking to impede the process of carrying out optimal justice. It is similar to Section 151 in the way that both of these statutes protect the courts from their respective provisions (i.e., the CPC and CrPC). 
  • Section 482 was added through the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act in 1923 to address the problem of numerous interruptions caused by cluttered codified laws which restricted the court from discharging its duties even when the case before them was obvious. 
  • Guidelines for the courts to exercise power under Section 482 were reiterated on 4th Oct 2017 by the Supreme Court in the case of Parbatbhai Aahir & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat &Anr[SLP(CRL) No 9549 of 2016]. 
  • It deals with the role of the High Court in quashing first information reports or a criminal proceeding after the parties have arrived at a settlement. 
  • Quashing of criminal cases, which have a distinct civil taste to them, such as disputes arising out of commercial or mercantile relationships, is covered by this Section. 

Article 142 of the Constitution of India

  • It attributes discretionary power to the Supreme Court which allows it to pass any order or decree that it deems necessary to deliver justice in any cause or matter in front of the court. 
  • Use of this provision in a constructive way such as to protect and promote the deprived sections of the society or the environment, the approach was commended by imminent personalities in the legal field as well as the common people. 
  • Cleansing of the Taj Mahal and Fast-track justice to those on trial for an unreasonably long time was a result of the Supreme Court exercising its powers under this Article. 
  • While the other two statutes (Section 151, CPC, and Section 482, CrPC) elaborate on the situations when their own mother statutes cause impediments in the way of justice,Article 142 extends the power of the Supreme Court into other spheres irrespective of the laws governing them if it is being done to ensure justice. 
  • The true reach of the Supreme Court’s powers was seen during the Union Carbide case where the Multinational organization Union Carbide had refused to grant relief to the victims of the horrendous Bhopal Gas tragedy caused by its own negligence. The Supreme Court overran the parliament and the legislature to ensure justice. 
  • But it also set limits on itself in the case of Supreme Court Bar Association v. Union of India[(1995)  2 SCC  584] where it was adjudged that Article 142 cannot repeal and replace an existing law but can only bolster it. 


In the process of dispensing justice, the court must be recognized to have all of the powers necessary to do the right thing and reverse the wrong. The court has a fundamental purpose of preventing abuse of its's current mechanisms.  Supreme Court has frequently invoked Article 142 of the Indian Constitution as a means of ensuring complete justice. As evident from history, the Supreme court has never faltered in its duty to uphold the rule of law and ensure that it reigns supreme, despite the fact that its rigorous adherence causes no harm to anyone.

The High Courts have ensured a smooth and appropriate use of Section 482 to prevent the abuse of power and continue to do so, but there still exist some irregularities. 

It may do great good to the judicial institutions if all the norms pertaining to inherent and discretionary powers were codified with explicit mention of their limitations and extents by a competent authority, ensuring an instant and handy guidance when the appropriate situation presents itself. 

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