DR Ambedkar IAS Academy

  • The Supreme Court (under Article 32) and the high courts (under Article 226) can issue the writs of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari and quo-warranto. These writs are borrowed from English law where they are known as ‘prerogative writs’.
  • Mandamus: It is a command issued by a court to an authority directing it to perform a public duty imposed upon it by law. Mandamus can be issued when the Government denies to itself a jurisdiction which it undoubtedly has under the law, or where an authority vested with a power improperly refuses to exercise it. The function of the mandamus is to keep the public authorities within the limits of their jurisdiction while exercising public functions.
  • Mandamus can be issued to any kind of authority in respect of any type of function – administrative, legislative, quasi-judicial and judicial. Mandamus is used to enforce the performance of public duties by public authorities. Mandamus is not issued when the Government is under no duty under the law. When an authority fails in its legal duty to implement an order of a tribunal, a mandamus can be issued directing the authority to do so. Thus, when the appellate transport tribunal accepted the applications of the petitioner for grant of permits, mandamus was issued to the concerned authority to issue the permits to the petitioner in terms of the tribunal order. Mandamus is issued to enforce a mandatory duty which may not necessarily be a statutory duty.
  • Habeas Corpus: By this writ, the court directs the person or authority who has detained another person to bring the body of the prisoner before the court so as to enable the court to decide the validity, jurisdiction or justification for such detention. The principal aim of the writ is to ensure swift judicial review of alleged unlawful detention on liberty or freedom of the prisoner or detention.
  • Prohibition: Literally, it means ‘to forbid’. It is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or usurping a jurisdiction that it does not possess. Thus prohibition directs inactivity. The writ of prohibition can be issued only against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities. It is not available against administrative authorities, legislative bodies, and private individuals or bodies.
  • Certiorari: It means ‘to be certified’ or ‘to be informed’. It is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal either to transfer a case pending with the latter to itself or to squash the order of the latter in a case. It is issued on the grounds of excess of jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction or error of law. Thus, unlike prohibition, which is only preventive, certiorari is both preventive as well as curative. The certiorari can be issued even against administrative authorities affecting the rights of individuals. Like prohibition, certiorari is also not available against legislative bodies and private individuals or bodies.
  • Quo-Warranto: It means ‘by what authority or warrant’. It is issued by the court to enquire into the legality of the claim of a person to a public office. Hence, it prevents illegal usurpation of public office by a person. The writ can be issued only in case of a substantive public office of a permanent character created by a statute or by the Constitution. It cannot be issued in cases of ministerial office or private office. Unlike the other four writs, this can be sought by any interested person and not necessarily by the aggrieved person.

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