The Inherent Power of High Court

Article authored by Athulya R. Krishnan, law student from Government Law College Ernakulam, Kerala

The High Court’s inherent power stipulated under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure is among the most powerful and exclusive powers of the High Court to ensure the country’s effective administration of justice.

The Section-482 of CrPC, which deals with inherent powers of the High Court, provides as:

“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.”


Section 482 deals with the preservation of the High Court’s inherent powers and prohibits all matters that curtail such power of the Court. The High Court can exercise such powers in three circumstances, mainly:

  • To safeguard the ends of justice.
  • To empower orders under the Code
  • To counteract the abuse of the process of the Court

But it should be noted that no such power can be exercised and cannot be invoked in circumstances where any specific provision for a particular case is made. In its sense, the section protects the powers. It restricts the power by stating specific provisions where the powers can be used while exercising the High Court’s inherent jurisdiction.

In its wide scope, the inherent powers are a rule of practice that will only be used in exceptional cases. It is in this case, Madhu Limaye v. the State of Maharashtra, S.C. held that the following principles would govern the exercise of the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under section 482:

  • The power is not to be exercised if there is a specific provision in the Code for the redress of the grievance of the aggrieved;
  • It should be exercised to prevent abuse of the process of any Court or otherwise to secure to the ends of justice;
  • It should not be exercised against the express bar of the law engrafted in any other provision of the Code.

So to detail the stipulated section,

  • Power to be exercised ex debito justitiae

The power exercised under section 482 should be exercised ex debito justitiae. In the case of State of Maharashtra v. Arun Gulab Gawali, section 482 is made to administer justice and not to obstruct it. The High Court should cautiously exercise these powers.

  • To counteract the abuse of the process of the Court

Section 482 is constituted to recognize the High Court’s power, and it does not confer any new powers. It has the power to interfere in cases if there happens to be any injustice towards any citizen of India, by any illegal means. But it should also be noted that it cannot obstruct at an interlocutory stage of a criminal proceeding in subordinate Court unless there exists any exceptional or extraordinary reason.

 In the case of Sankatha Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was held that the High Court could not, in the exercise of inherent powers, do something which the Code specifically prohibits the Court from doing.

  • To safeguard the ends of justice.

This principle is inevitable to secure the independence of courts and the administration of justice in the country. It ensures the free exercise of discretionary functions by High Courts without any unreasonable interference in its functioning. Suppose there is a clear violation of constitutional law. In that case, the High Court can interfere to safeguard proper judiciary freedom and perform their functions freely and fearlessly, without the undue influence from any corner.

Nature of the Powers

The bare statement of facts of the case is sufficient to convince High Court that it can be interfered, even at the intermediate stage. However, this section’s power and scope should be exercised cautiously within limits set under the section. In-State of Haryana v. Bhajan Lal case the Supreme Court pronounced that it is difficult to lay any exhaustive list where the inherent powers can be exercised. The following kinds are circumstances where such power can be exercised:

  • In case, the allegations made in the First Information Report or the complaint are taken at prima facie value and made out a case against the accused. 
  • Or if the allegations in the First Information Report and other files following the F.I.R.F.I.R. do not disclose a cognizable offence, substantiating the investigation by police officers under Section 156(1) of the Code except if there is an order of a Magistrate as per Section 155(2) of the Code.
  • If the uncontroverted allegations made in the F.I.R.F.I.R. or complaint and the collected evidence do not disclose any criminal offence commission and cannot charge a case against the accused.
  • In fact, the allegations in the F.I.R.F.I.R. cannot be constituted as a cognizable offence. The investigation is not permitted to a police officer without a magistrate’s order under Section 155(2) of the Code.
  • If the allegations put forth in the F.I.R.F.I.R. or complaint is absurd and inherently improbable, no prudent person can ever reach a just conclusion, and there is no sufficient reason to proceed against the accused.
  • In case, if there is a legal bar engrafted in any of the provisions of the Code, expressly and continuance of the proceedings and if there is a specific provision in the Code, providing efficacious redress for the grievance of the aggrieved party.
  • And if a criminal proceeding is manifestly attended and maliciously instituted with a motive of vengeance on the accused and to tarnish for private and personal reasons.

The inherent power is structured to secure the ends of justice. It empowers the Courts to secure the administration of justice otherwise violated by filing vexatious criminal proceedings against innocent persons.

One comment

  1. Only Quashing of the matter/s (F.I.R or Complaint) on trick is not In practice business of the High court to exercise Inherent power of the High court.


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