What Are The Inherent Powers of Civil Court?

Law has always been an essential element of society; it was present when the human race was uncivilized and it is present today also parallelly witnessing the advancements we have made in every aspect. Throughout this transition, the law has been serving different purposes in society but the prime purpose remains the same, to serve Justice. Courts have been the instrument that has been serving justice from ancient times, even when we did not have a codified system of law and these courts have had immense power in the past years and so do now. Every court should have the power to do or undo things that are necessary to find the ends of justice and serve the purpose of the law. The civil courts are such courts assisting the parties to get to the ends of the law, procedural in nature or adjective of law[1].


Inherent Power technically means[2] any power or any authority that is intrinsically attached or that has been deemed upon a particular body or particular office. Inherent powers of the court are those powers that are present in hands of the court since the very beginning and courts use them at their discretion to achieve the ends of justice and to bring both the parties to satisfactory disposition.


Section 148 and section 149 of the Code of Civil Procedure deals with grant of enlargement of time.

Section 150 deals with the transfer of business from one court to another.

Section 151 of the code saves the inherent powers of the court.

Section 152, 153 and 153A deals with the amendment in Judgments, decrees and orders in separate proceedings.


Section 148 of the of CPC says where a time limit has been given for a task to be done such a time limit can be enlarged by 30 days by the court on its discretion owing to the inherent power vested in it. This provision is operative in the absence of any other provision which is contrary to such extension or rejects, or withhold such period.


Under section 149  if any payment related to documents that are is to be presented in court has not been made before such presentation, the court may allow the payment of such court fee wholly or partially at any stage of the matter and the effect of such payment will be like if made at the instance it should have been made that is before the filing of such document.


Section 150 of the Code provides that where the business of one court is transferred to the other court the other court shall exercise the same power and authority as entrusted upon the court by the code from where the matter has been passed.


Section 151 of the code provides, that no law in the code can provide for restricting the use of inherent powers of the court to attain the ends of justice. The court has an inherent authority vested in it and it does not need to wait for a parliament to enact laws or higher court to adjudicate upon it. The court has full prerogative on the security of justice and to check the abuse of power by these courts.


The words end of justice are solemn words and its meaning is not limited to a polite expression in fact is much more than that. The phrase establishes that justice is the only end of any notion of law. However, the statement is inclusive and deals with justice only in the sense of the statutes and laws enacted by it. In the case of Debendranath Vs, Staya Bala Dass[3] the significance of the phrase, the ends of the justice were stressed upon. T attain the ends of justice the court has the authority to recheck its orders and to pass injunction on matters not covered under order 39 and can also pass ex-parte orders.


The phrase ‘Abuse of the process of the court’ means, where the procedure of the court has been abused by the part to the matter or by the court against the prejudice of the other party in the litigation. The court operates upon the principles of natural justice, that no party shall be subjected to any kind of prejudice, but when subjected due to the fraud or any misrepresentation on the part of the adverse party any relief shall be granted upon the consideration of inherent powers of the court


Section 152 of code says that the court has the power to amend the mistakes made in the judgments, orders and decrees of the court on the application of the parties subject to the suits. Section 153 further states that the court has the authority to amend the faulty errors in the judgments if the parties to the suit raise them in the front of the courts.


In a more than seven decades-old cases in Emperor vs Khwaja Nazir Ahmad[4] the court held that section 516A (Corresponding of Section 482) does not give any special power to civil courts, it was held that “No new powers were entrusted upon the court and it was just the powers already devolved upon the court needs to be preserved”

In the very recent Judgment of K.K. veluswamy vs N. Palaaniswamy[5] the Supreme court held that section 151 of the code recognizes the discretionary power inherited by the court as a corollary to render justice in accordance with the law. to do what is right and to undo what is wrong keeping in mind the ends of the law, that is Justice.


With all the doctrinal and the analytical research, it can be safely held that section 151 of the code of civil procedure is not a substantive provision. Section 148 to section 153A bestow courts with the power to reduce the unwanted litigations in the court. Section 151 of the court saves the inherent power of the court and upholds that these shall be used only to attain the ends of justice.

For a batter understanding, one must look at the judgment J. Subbarao in the case of Ramchand & Sons Sugarmills Limited Vs Kanhayalal Bhargava[6] which says that no matter what restrictions are placed upon the court for using section 151 of the code it can always use the provision to stop the abuse of the process of the courts.

[1] Lectures on Civil Procedure Code, Eighth edition 2018.

[2] Concise Oxford English Dictionary (2005).

[3] AIR 1950 CAL 217

[4] (1945) 47 BOMLR 245

[5] (2011) 11 SCC 275

[6] AIR 1966 SC 1899

This Article is Authored by Varunendra Pandey, 3rd Year B.A. LL.B (Hons) Student at Amity Law School, Delhi.

Also Read – Which Court Has the Power to Review its Own Judgment?

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