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Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code

section 151 of cpc

Section 151 of the Civil Procedure Code is titled ‘Saving of inherent powers of the Code’. It says, ‘Nothing in this Code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers of the Court to make such orders as may be necessary for the ends of the justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the court.’ What needs to be noted in this section is as follows.

Points To Be Noted

Power to Pass Orders by the Court 

Firstly, this section does not confer any powers but only indicates that there is a power to make such orders as may be necessary for achieving the ends of justice and also to prevent abuse of processes of the court. The court is not powerless to grant relief when the situation so demands because the powers vested with the court are of wide scope and ambit[1].

Discretionary Power

Secondly, the discretion vested in the court is dependent upon various circumstances which the court has to consider. The parties to a suit should note that this discretionary power under Section 151 can also be exercised on an application filed by the party. [2]

Not to be Exercised when there are Specific Provisions in the Code 

Thirdly, the power is not to be exercised when there are specific provisions in the Code to deal with the case. In the case of Manohar Lal Chopra v Rai Bahadur Rao Raja Seth Hiralal[3], it was held that the inherent jurisdiction of the court to make orders ex debito justitiae (as of right) is affirmed by Section 151, but that jurisdiction cannot be exercised so as to nullify the provisions of the CPC. Inherent jurisdiction must be exercised, subject to the rule that, if the Code does contain specific provisions, such provisions should be followed, and the inherent jurisdiction must not be invoked.

Consolidation of Suits 

Fourthly, the CPC does not explicitly speak of consolidation of suits, but the same can be done by courts through Section 151. Unless there exists a specific provision which bars the same, the civil court has the inherent power to make such orders. This consolidation saves parties from multiple proceedings, delay in orders and reduces expenses like court and lawyer fees. All in all, it is in the parties’ favor!

Cannot Reopen Settled Matters

Fifthly, the inherent powers cannot be used to reopen settled matters. In the case of Nain Singh v Koonwarjee[4], the petitioners had filed an application under O 21 r 90 of the CPC, to set aside an auction sale. The court, while rejecting the application, said that it could not exercise its inherent powers if the order can be challenged under the provisions of the CPC.

Does Appeal Exist?

Sixthly, an appeal as well as a second appeal, have been held, by the High Court of Madras to lie from an order made under this section, in execution or for restitution[5]. But the Patna High Court has held otherwise[6]. But, according to the Amendment made to Section 2(2), an order made in execution, though made under Section 151, is no longer a decree and hence no appeal would lie. Hence, at present, no appeal for execution lies, though appeal for restitution still exists.

Are Review Petitions Possible?

Seventhly, unfortunately, the review petition against a consent decree does not lie under this section. If the evidence suggests that one party has defrauded the other party, the only remedy left for the party who has been defrauded is to file a separate suit for setting aside the decree obtained by fraud. But it is a different situation altogether if it is proved that either party defrauded the court, then the review petition will be available or maintainable under Section 151. In the case of Kishore Motani v Om Prakash & Sons[7] it was held that when order allowing amendment of the plaint was absolutely clear and unambiguous, the court possessed no inherent power to review its decision which was already given.

Restoration of Suits 

Lastly, in the case of Bahadur Pradhani v Gopal Patel, the plaint of a money suit was rejected for non-payment of court fee within the time granted by the court. The plaintiff filed a petition under this section for the restoration of the suit. The restoration was allowed as the ‘provisions of CPC do not control the inherent powers of the court by limiting it or otherwise affecting it.’

Conclusion

It can be safely concluded that the power of the court under Section 151 is not a substantive provision. It saves the inherent power of the court which is based on the principle of ex debito justitae, i.e. in the interest of justice. They are not conferred but are deductible which is why it is not a substantive provision. It exists to prevent abuse of the processes of the court and to meet the ends of justice.

[1] Raj Bahadur Ras Raja v Seth Hiralal, AIR 1962 SC 527

[2] Sharda v Dharmpal, AIR 2003 SC 3450

[3] AIR 1962 SC 527

[4] AIR 1970 SC 997

[5] Govinda v Velu Murugayya, (1993) 64 Mad LJ 586

[6] Sukhdeo Dass v Rito Singh (1917) 2 Pat LJ 361

[7] AIR 2003 Del 166

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by Varnika Agarwal

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