|Caution on High Court’s inherent jurisdiction|
New Delhi: The inherent jurisdiction of the High Court under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code to quash criminal proceedings pending in a lower court though wide has to be exercised sparingly and cautiously and only when such exercise is justified, the Supreme Court held on Tuesday.
“Inherent power is to be exercised ex debito justitiae [as a legal obligation] to do real and substantial justice for which alone courts exist. Authority of the court exists for advancement of justice and if any attempt is made to abuse that authority so as to produce injustice, the court has power to prevent such abuse. It would be an abuse of the process of the court to allow any action which results in injustice and prevents promotion of justice,” said a Bench consisting of Justices Arijit Pasayat and G.S. Singhvi.
Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said: “Exercise of power under Section 482 Cr.PC is an exception and not the rule. It is neither possible nor desirable to lay down any inflexible rule which would govern the exercise of inherent jurisdiction. No legislative enactment dealing with procedure can provide for all cases that may possibly arise. Courts, therefore, have inherent powers. While exercising powers under the Section, the court does not function as a court of appeal or revision.”
The Bench said the High Court, when exercising jurisdiction under Section 482, would not ordinarily embark on an enquiry into whether the evidence in question was reliable or not, or whether on a reasonable appreciation of it accusation would not be sustained.
“The Section is not an instrument handed over to an accused to short-circuit a prosecution and bring about its sudden death. The inherent power should not be exercised to stifle a legitimate prosecution. Of course, no hard and fast rule can be laid down in regard to cases in which the High Court could exercise its inherent jurisdiction. It would be erroneous to assess the material before it and conclude that the complaint cannot be proceeded with. The allegation of mala fides against the informant is of no consequence and cannot by itself be the basis for quashing the proceedings.”
The Bench said: “Judicial process, no doubt, should not be an instrument of oppression or needless harassment. The court should be circumspect and judicious in exercising discretion and should take all relevant facts and circumstances into consideration before issuing process, lest it be an instrument in the hands of a private complainant to unleash vendetta to harass any person needlessly.” In the instant case, a theft complaint was registered against Jasbir Singh. On his petition, the Punjab and Haryana High Court quashed the lower court proceedings.
Setting aside this judgment on a special leave petition by the complainant Lakhwant Singh, the apex court said: “A practically non-reasoned order of the High Court does not reveal that the parameters relating to exercise of power under Section 482 Cr.PC were kept in view.
Section 482 Cr.PC is not an instrument handed over to an accused to short-circuit prosecution<>
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