Writ of Mandamus: An insight

Introduction:

The Indian Constitution provides several fundamental rights to its citizens, which are enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution. However, simply granting rights is not enough. The government must act to safeguard and protect Indian citizens’ constitutionally given rights. When someone in any part of a state suffers an injustice, the state should give a remedy to repair the wrong or injustice. When citizens’ rights are violated, there must be a redress process through which they can seek justice. This is where the topic of writs finds its basis.

Writ:

A writ is a formal written order issued by someone who has the power to do so, whether it’s an executive or judicial authority. The judicial review of administrative acts in the form of writ jurisdiction is to guarantee that the decisions taken by the authorities are legal, rational, fair, and reasonable.

Only the High Courts and the Supreme Court have the authority to issue writs in India. Article 226 of the Indian Constitution gives High Courts the ability to issue writs, while Article 32 gives the Supreme Court the jurisdiction to issue writs. The Indian Constitution lists five different sorts of writs that can be issued by both Supreme Courts and High Courts namely Mandamus, Certiorari, Habeas Corpus, Quo Warranto, and Prohibition.

The writ of Mandamus is used to compel any authority to fulfil its public responsibilities.

Writ of Mandamus:

Mandamus is a Latin word that means ‘command.’ Its goal is to guarantee that government and public officials carry out their responsibilities effectively. This writ can be issued to compel a public official to perform his or her duties if he or she fails to do so or refuses to do so. It is important to note that mandamus cannot be ordered against an individual or for any contractual obligation. It can be issued to a public body or corporation, but it cannot be used to against the president, governor, or state legislature when they are debating laws.

The writ will not lie in the following situations:

  1. The duty to be performed is discretionary
  2. The duty involves performing a non- statutory function
  3. The performance of a duty entails the exercise of essentially private rights.
  4. Where such direction includes breach of any  law
  5. When there is any other legal remedy available

Case laws:

  • Vijaya Mehta v. State of Rajasthan[i]

In this case, a petition was brought in the High Court to compel the State to fulfil its obligation to appoint a commission to investigate climate change and flooding in the state. The Court found that the State Government could only appoint a commission if the Legislature enacted a resolution, and that it was a discretionary rather than a required obligation, hence no Writ of Mandamus was granted in this case.

  • Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd. v. Income Tax Officer, Bhopal[ii]

By its final ruling, the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal gave unambiguous instructions to the respondent Income Tax Officer. The Income Tax Officer had proceeded to ignore the Tribunal’s directives. The Supreme Court ruled that the Income Tax officer had a mandatory responsibility to follow the Tribunal’s directives, and that failure to do so amounted to severe injustice. As a result, the officer was issued a Writ of Mandamus, instructing him to carry out the Tribunal’s directions.

  • Barada Kanta Adhikary vs. State of West Bengal[iii]

In this case it was held that writ of mandamus cannot lie against a private individual or any private organization as they are not delegated with public duty.

  • The Praga Tools Corporation vs. C. V. Imanual[iv] and Sohanlal vs. Union of India[v]

The Supreme Court ruled in these cases that if a private party is proved to have collaborated with a public power, a writ of mandamus may be issued. This is a reasonable decision since the private body is interfering with the performance of a public duty and can thus be held accountable when ministerial tasks impacting public rights are not carried out properly.

Conclusion:

One of the most important powers granted to the High Courts and the Supreme Court under Sections 226 and 32, respectively, is the power to award writs. Writs defend citizens’ rights by offering a faster remedy, therefore sustaining democratic norms by providing prompt justice. The importance of writs cannot be overstated, and the courts must exercise this power with caution because they have been given so broad authority. Judicial writs are constitutional remedies granted to courts in order to maintain the administration within the bounds of the law. They are effective restraints on the government’s excesses. Nobody is above the law, according to the Constitution. Even Supreme Court judges are not above the law, and they are bound by the rulings that they declare to be the law of the land in writ petitions. As a result, the constitutional remedies provide a check on the administration of government and maintain it within the confines of the law.

References:

  1. Anonymous, Writs in Indian Constitution, Clear Tax, https://cleartax.in/s/writs#:~:text=Mandamus,inferior%20court%20or%20the%20government.
  2. Adhila Muhammed Arif, Writ of Mandamus and its usage in light of the case of John Paily v. the State of Kerala, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/writ-of-mandamus-and-its-usage-in-light-of-the-case-of-john-paily-v-the-state-of-kerala/
  3. Tanu Kapoor, Analysis of Types of Writs under Constitution of India: Landmark Cases, Latest Laws,  https://www.latestlaws.com/articles/analysis-of-types-of-writs-under-constitution-of-india-landmark-cases-by-tanu-kapoor/
  4. Pratibha Bansal, Writs in Indian Constitution, Blog iPleaders, https://blog.ipleaders.in/writ/#Mandamus
  5. LexLife India, Concept of Writ Petition, LexLife India, https://lexlife.in/2020/05/18/concept-of-writ-petition/

[i] Vijaya Mehta v. State of Rajasthan, AIR 1980 Raj 207.

[ii] Bhopal Sugar Industries Ltd. v. Income Tax Officer, Bhopal, 1961 AIR 182

[iii] Barada Kanta Adhikary vs. State of West Bengal, AIR 1963 Cal. 161

[iv] The Praga Tools Corporation vs. C. V. Imanual, 1969  SCR (3) 773 and Sohanlal vs. Union of India – (1957) SCR 738:

[v] Sohanlal vs. Union of India, (1957) SCR 738

Aishwarya Says:

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