This article delves into the concept of inherent powers of courts and explores the question of whether courts can grant relief that is not specifically requested by the petitioner. By examining Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure and relevant legal provisions, we aim to shed light on the boundaries within which courts operate in granting relief.
Understanding the Inherent Powers of the Court:
It is a general understanding that a court by making use of its wide discretionary powers can go on to provide all such reliefs it thinks fit for those who come before it in a hope to secure justice. But the question that needs to be answered is:
Is it just a notion? Or even courts too have a ‘Lakshman Rekha’?
In this brief piece of writing, an attempt is made to clarify this confusion. To begin with, let’s touch upon Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure, which discusses the “Inherent Powers” of the court. The term “Inherent” precisely refers to characteristics that are natural, biological, or innate. Now, another question arises: what exactly are the “Inherent Powers” of the court? The purpose of the court’s inherent power is to ensure the ends of justice and rectify any wrongs in case of an abuse of the court’s processes. To provide readers with a brief idea of what generally constitutes the ‘Inherent Powers’ of the court, here are a few illustrations:
Illustrations of Inherent Powers:
i. Enlargement of time: Section 148 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, for instance, intentionally grants discretion to the courts when it comes to the question of ‘Enlargement of time’. It states, “Where any period is fixed or granted by the Court for the doing of any act prescribed or allowed by this Code, the Court may, in its discretion, from time to time, enlarge such period, even though the period originally fixed or granted may have expired.” However, Clause 13 seeks to impose a limit on the enlargement of such a period by adding the words “not exceeding thirty days in total.”
ii. Power to make up for deficiency of court-fees: Again, Section 149 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, provides courts with the power to compensate for deficiencies in court-fees. It reads as follows: “Where the whole or any part of any fee prescribed for any document by the law for the time being in force relating to Court-fees has not been paid, the Court may, in its discretion, at any stage, allow the person by whom such fee is payable to pay the whole or part, as the case may be, of such Court-fee; and upon such payment, the document, in respect of which such fee is payable, shall have the same force and effect as if such fee had been paid in the first instance.”
iii. General power to amend: Section 153 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, grants courts the power to make amendments. It states, “The Court may, at any time, and on such terms as to costs or otherwise as it may think fit, amend any defect or error in any proceeding in a suit, and all necessary amendments shall be made for the purpose of determining the real question or issue raised by or depending on such proceeding.”
Limitations on Granting Relief:
There is no provision or inherent power that authorizes courts to grant relief that is explicitly not requested by the petitioner. The same proposition was upheld by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Bharat Amratlal Kothari vs. Dosukhan Samadkhan Sindhi and Ors. MANU/SC/1799/2009. In the appeal before it, the Hon’ble Supreme Court expressed the following opinion:
“Though the Court has very wide discretion in granting relief, the Court, however, cannot, ignoring and setting aside the norms and principles governing the grant of relief, grant a relief not even prayed for by the Petitioner.”
Conclusion: Based on an examination of the Code of Civil Procedure and Supreme Court judgments, it is evident that courts operate within limitations when it comes to granting relief. Courts cannot provide relief that has not been specifically requested by the petitioner. This understanding establishes the existence of a “Lakshman Rekha” or boundary that courts must respect in their jurisdiction. In conclusion, it is clear that courts are bound by the prayers of the petitioner when it comes to granting relief i.e. COURTS CANNOT GRANT A RELIEF, WHICH IS NOT PRAYED FOR BY THE PETITIONER.