Legal Blog: Inherent Powers of Courts under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Inherent Powers of Courts under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code

Justice P. Sathasivam
Supreme Court of India
The Supreme Court in Padal Venkata Rama Reddy @ Ramu Vs. Kovvuri Satyanarayana Reddy has examined various judicial pronouncements on the Inherent Powers of the Courts under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code. We have already dealt with a similar topic titled 'Power of Courts to Quash Criminal Proceedings : The Law', where Justice Dr. B.S. Chauhan of the Supreme Court of India had examined the powers of the Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code in relation to quashing of criminal proceedings. 

The relevant extracts from this latest judgment are reproduced hereinbelow;

6. Section 482 of the Code deals with inherent power of High Court. It is under Chapter XXXVII of the Code titled "Miscellaneous" which reads as under: 

"482. Saving of inherent power of High Court- 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." 

This section was added by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Amendment) Act of 1923 as the High Courts were unable to render complete justice even if in a given case the illegality was palpable and apparent. This section envisages three circumstances in which the inherent jurisdiction may be exercised, namely: 

1. to give effect to any order under Cr.P.C., 2. to prevent abuse of the process of any court, 3. to secure the ends of justice. 

7. In R.P. Kapur Vs. State of Punjab AIR 1960 SC 866=(1960) 3 SCR 388, this Court laid down the following principles:- 

"(i) Where institution/continuance of criminal proceedings against an accused may amount to the abuse of the process of the court or that the quashing of the impugned proceedings would secure the ends of justice; 

(ii) where it manifestly appears that there is a legal bar against the institution or continuance of the said proceeding, e.g. want of sanction; 

(iii) where the allegations in the First Information Report or the complaint taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety, do not constitute the offence alleged; and 

(iv) where the allegations constitute an offence alleged but there is either no legal evidence adduced or evidence adduced clearly or manifestly fails to prove the charge." 

8. In State of Karnataka vs. L. Muniswamy & Ors. AIR 1977 SC 1489, this Court has held as under:- 

"In the exercise of this wholesome power, the High Court is entitled to quash a proceeding if it comes to the conclusion that allowing the proceeding to continue would be an abuse of the process of the Court or that the ends of justice require that the proceeding ought to be quashed. The saving of the High Court's inherent powers, both in civil and criminal matters is designed to achieve a salutary public purpose which is that a court proceeding ought not to be permitted to degenerate into a weapon of harassment or persecution. In a criminal case, the veiled object behind a lame prosecution, the very nature of the material on which the structure of the prosecution rests and the like would justify the High Court in quashing the proceeding in the interest of justice. The ends of justice are higher than the ends of mere law though justice has got to be administered according to laws made by the legislature. The compelling necessity for making these observations is that without a proper realisation of the object and purpose of the provision which seeks to save the inherent powers of the High Court to do justice between the State and its subjects it would be impossible to appreciate the width and contours of that salient jurisdiction." 

Though the High Court has inherent power and its scope is very wide, it is a rule of practice that it will only be exercised in exceptional cases. Section 482 is a sort of reminder to the High Courts that they are not merely courts of law, but also courts of justice and possess inherent powers to remove injustice. The inherent power of the High Court is an inalienable attribute of the position it holds with respect to the courts subordinate to it. These powers are partly administrative and partly judicial. They are necessarily judicial when they are exercisable with respect to a judicial order and for securing the ends of justice. The jurisdiction under Section 482 is discretionary, therefore the High Court may refuse to exercise the discretion if a party has not approached it with clean hands. 

9. In a proceeding under Section 482, the High Court will not enter into any finding of facts, particularly, when the matter has been concluded by concurrent finding of facts of two courts below. Inherent powers under Section 482 include powers to quash FIR, investigation or any criminal proceedings pending before the High Court or any court subordinate to it and are of wide magnitude and ramification. Such powers can be exercised to secure ends of justice, prevent abuse of the process of any court and to make such orders as may be necessary to give effect to any order under this Code, depending upon the facts of a given case. Court can always take note of any miscarriage of justice and prevent the same by exercising its powers under Section 482 of the Code. These powers are neither limited nor curtailed by any other provisions of the Code. However such inherent powers are to be exercised sparingly, carefully and with caution. 

10. 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 in a situation where a specific remedy is provided by the statute. It cannot be used if it is inconsistent with specific provisions provided under the Code.- (vide Kavita v. State (2000 Cr LJ 315) and B.S. Joshi v. State of Haryana & Anr. ((2003) 4 SCC 675). 

If an effective alternative remedy is available, the High Court will not exercise its powers under this section, specially when the applicant may not have availed of that remedy. 

11. The inherent power is to be exercised ex debito justitiae, to do real and substantial justice, for administration of which alone Courts exist. Wherever any attempt is made to abuse that authority so as to produce injustice, the Court has power to prevent the abuse. It is, however, not necessary that at this stage there should be a meticulous analysis of the case before the trial to find out whether the case ends in conviction or acquittal. (Vide Mrs. Dhanalakshmi vs. R. Prasanna Kumar & Ors. AIR 1990 SC 494; Ganesh Narayan Hegde vs. S. Bangarappa & Ors. (1995) 4 SCC 41; and M/s Zandu Pharmaceutical Works Ltd. & Ors. vs. Md. Sharaful Haque & Ors. AIR 2005 SC 9). 

12. It is neither feasible nor practicable to lay down exhaustively as to on what ground the jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Code should be exercised. But some attempts have been made in that behalf in some of the decisions of this Court vide State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal (1992 Supp (1) SCC 335), Janata Dal vs. H.S. Chowdhary and Others (1992 (4) SCC 305), Rupan Deol Bajaj (Mrs.) and Another vs. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill and Another (1995 (6) SCC 194), and Indian Oil Corp. vs. NEPC India Ltd. and Others (2006 (6) SCC 736). 

13. In the landmark case of State of Haryana vs. Bhajan Lal (1992 Supp.(1) SCC 335) this Court considered in detail the provisions of Section 482 and the power of the High Court to quash criminal proceedings or FIR. This Court summarized the legal position by laying down the following guidelines to be followed by High Courts in exercise of their inherent powers to quash a criminal complaint: 

"(1) 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. 

(2) 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. 

(3) 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. 

(4) 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. 

(5) 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. 

(6) 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. 

(7) 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." 

14. In Indian Oil Corporation vs. NEPC India Ltd. and Others (2006) 6 SCC 736 a petition under Section 482 was filed to quash two criminal complaints. The High Court by a common judgment allowed the petition and quashed both the complaints. The order was challenged in appeal to this Court. While deciding the appeal, this Court laid down the following principles: 

"1. The High courts should not exercise their inherent powers to repress a legitimate prosecution. The power to quash criminal complaints should be used sparingly and with abundant caution. 

2. The criminal complaint is not required to verbatim reproduce the legal ingredients of the alleged offence. If the necessary factual foundation is laid in the criminal complaint, merely on the ground that a few ingredients have not been stated in detail, the criminal proceedings should not be quashed. Quashing of the complaint is warranted only where the complaint is bereft of even the basic facts which are absolutely necessary for making out the alleged offence. 

3. It was held that a given set of facts may make out (a) purely a civil wrong, or (b) purely a criminal offence or (c) a civil wrong as also a criminal offence. A commercial transaction or a contractual dispute, apart from furnishing a cause of action for seeking remedy in civil law, may also involve a criminal offence." 

15. In State of Orissa & Anr. vs. Saroj Kumar Sahoo (2005) 13 SCC 540, it has been held that probabilities of the prosecution version cannot be analysed at this stage. Likewise the allegations of mala fides of the informant are of secondary importance. The relevant passage reads thus: 

"It would not be proper for the High Court to analyse the case of the complainant in the light of all probabilities in order to determine whether a conviction would be sustainable and on such premises arrive at a conclusion that the proceedings are to be quashed. It would be erroneous to assess the material before it and conclude that the complaint cannot be proceeded with." 

16. In Madhavrao Jiwaji Rao Scindia & Anr. vs. Sambhajirao Chandrojirao Angre & Ors. AIR 1988 SC 709, this Court held as under:- 

"The legal position is well-settled that when a prosecution at the initial stage is asked to be quashed, the test to be applied by the court is as to whether the uncontroverted allegations as made prima facie establish the offence. It is also for the court to take into consideration any special features which appear in a particular case to consider whether it is expedient and in the interest of justice to permit a prosecution to continue. This is so on the basis that the court cannot be utilised for any oblique purpose and where in the opinion of the court chances of an ultimate conviction is bleak and, therefore, no useful purpose is likely to be served by allowing a criminal prosecution to continue, the court may while taking into consideration the special facts of a case also quash the proceeding even though it may be at a preliminary stage." 

17. This Court, while reconsidering the Judgment in Madhavrao Jiwaji Rao Scindia (supra), consistently observed that where matters are also of civil nature i.e. matrimonial, family disputes, etc., the Court may consider "special facts", "special features" and quash the criminal proceedings to encourage genuine settlement of disputes between the parties. 

18. The said Judgment was reconsidered and explained by this Court in State of Bihar & Anr. vs. Shri P.P. Sharma & Anr. AIR 1991 SC 1260 which reads as under: 

"Madhaorao J. Scindhia v. Sambhaji Rao AIR 1988 SC 709, also does not help the respondents. In that case the allegations constituted civil wrong as the trustees created tenancy of Trust property to favour the third party. A private complaint was laid for the offence under Section 467 read with Section 34 and Section 120B I.P.C. which the High Court refused to quash under Section 482. This Court allowed the appeal and quashed the proceedings on the ground that even on its own contentions in the complaint, it would be a case of breach of trust or a civil wrong but no ingredients of criminal offences were made out. On those facts and also due to the relation of the settler, the mother, the appellant and his wife, as the son and daughter-in-law, this Court interfered and allowed the appeal. Therefore, the ratio therein is of no assistance to the facts in this case. It cannot be considered that this Court laid down as a proposition of law that in every case the court would examine at the preliminary stage whether there would be ultimate chances of conviction on the basis of allegation and exercise of the power under Section 482 or Article 226 to quash the proceedings or the charge-sheet." 

Thus, the judgment in Madhavrao Jiwaji Rao Scindia (supra) does not lay down a law of universal application. Even as per the law laid down therein, the Court can not examine the facts/evidence etc. in every case to find out as to whether there is sufficient material on the basis of which the case would end in conviction. The ratio of Madhavrao Jiwaji Rao Scindia (supra) is applicable in cases where the Court finds that the dispute involved therein is predominantly civil in nature and that the parties should be given a chance to reach a compromise e.g. matrimonial, property and family disputes etc. etc. The superior Courts have been given inherent powers to prevent the abuse of the process of court where the court finds that the ends of justice may be met by quashing the proceedings, it may quash the proceedings, as the end of achieving justice is higher than the end of merely following the law. It is not necessary for the court to hold a fullfledged inquiry or to appreciate the evidence, collected by the Investigating Agency to find out whether the case would end in conviction or acquittal.

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