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Apex court cautions high courts on use of powers


New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said that though high courts enjoy vast powers for administration of criminal justice (under Section 482 of Code of Criminal Procedure) but the same was not unbridled and should be exercised cautiously and sparingly.

“It needs little emphasis that although the jurisdiction of the high court under the said provision (Section 482 of Cr.P.C.) is very wide but it is not unbridled,” said an apex court bench of Justice D.K. Jain and Justice H.L. Dattu in a judgment Oct 8.

The provision confers extra ordinary powers on high courts in relation to the administration of criminal justice.

Under the provision, the high court in order to meet the ends of justice can pass any order even in situations where there is no statutory backing for such an order in the Cr.P.C.

The court sounded its caution while setting aside the Bombay High Court order of Oct 9, 2007, by which it had declined to quash criminal complaint against the then chairman of the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) by a company, Switchgear Limited. Asoke Basak was heading the board when the complaint was filed.

The company entered into various contracts for the installation of low tension load management system for the MSEB and deposited Rs.five lakh as security.

In the course of the time, some dispute arose between the two and the company withdrew from its deal with the MSEB.

It sought the refund of its security which was declined on the grounds that the same has been adjusted against the dues payable by the company. Against this a criminal complaint was a filed before a magistrate which the Bombay High Court declined to quash.

Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Jain said: “The high court is required to exercise its inherent powers under Section 482 of the code sparingly, carefully and cautiously, ex debito justitiae to do real and substantial justice to prevent the abuse of the process of court.”

“One of the situations when the high court would be justified in invoking its powers is where the allegations in the first information report or the complaint, as the case may be, taken at their face value and accepted in their entirety do not constitute the offence alleged,” the judgment said.

Referring to an earlier verdict of the apex court, the judgment said that the exercise of the said powers was a “serious matter” for the accused, thus, the high court should not superficially examine the matter under its consideration.

The high court should exercise the inherent powers under Section 482 of the Cr.P.C. in accordance with the guidelines laid down by the apex court, the judgment recorded.