The Constitution of India protects the fundamental rights of the citizens of India in many ways. One of the most common and important forms of protection granted by the Constitution are the Writs. The Supreme Court and High Courts of India have many powers to take up a case directly when the fundamental right of a person has been violated. In such a case, the aggrieved person doesn’t have to visit the lower courts, he can directly approach the High Court or the Supreme Court and file a writ petition that suits his case.
A Writ means a command of the Court to another person or authority or to a lower court by which such person/authority/lower court has to act or abstain from acting in a certain way.
Writs in the Constitution-
The Constitution of India has given the power to the Supreme Court and the High Courts to grant writ under Article 32 and Article 226 respectively. When a person’s fundamental right is violated, he can approach either the Supreme Court or the High Court for the enforcement of his rights and pray to the court to issue an appropriate writ in his case.
A person can approach the Supreme Court only when his Fundamental Right is infringed. The citizens can approach the High Court for the issue of Writs in other matters in which the fundamental rights are not violated if their legal rights have been violated.
Types of Writs-
The Indian Constitution provides 5 types of writs that can be issued by the Courts. They are:
- Habeas Corpus
The literal meaning of Habeas Corpus is ‘to have the body and the writ of Habeas Corpus is issued when a person is detained illegally. By this Writ, the Court commands the person or authority who has detained or restrained the aggrieved person illegally to present such person before the Court within a specified time period. The Court requires the detaining person to provide the grounds on which the person has been detained and if he fails to provide a valid ground, the person who has been detained will be released by the Court immediately.
The meaning of Mandamus is ‘to command’. This writ is issued when the court directs an authority to do or to abstain from doing a certain act. This order can also be given to an Inferior Tribunal, Board, Corporation, or any other type of administrative authority. In India, the Supreme Court is the apex court, therefore it has the power to issue the Writ of Mandamus even against the High Court. But a High Court can issue this Writ under Article 226 only to the inferior courts such as the trial court of a district and not to the Supreme Court. This Writ is used to command/direct an authority to perform the duty which is required to be done by law or by the office which a person holds. The Writ of Mandamus cannot be issued against a private person and therefore only the State or the people who hold any office which falls in the category of a public office can be compelled to do or to abstain from doing an act.
The Writ of Certiorari is often used by the higher court against the lower court when the higher court thinks or believes that the lower court is acting in excess of jurisdiction. This Writ can also be issued when there is a fundamental error in the procedure followed by the inferior court or if the higher court believes that the lower court hasn’t followed the principles of natural justice. In such a case, the higher court can even quash the order of the inferior court.
The Writ of Prohibition is quite similar to the Writ of Certiorari and thus a bit confusing at first. This writ is also issued by the higher court against the lower court to stop the proceedings in a particular case if it thinks that the lower court has acted in excess of jurisdiction. The main difference between the Writ of Prohibition and the Writ of Certiorari is that the Writ of Prohibition is issued when the litigation of a particular case is still in the process while the Writ of Certiorari is issued when the adjudication is completed in a particular case.
- Quo Warranto
The literal meaning of Quo Warranto is ‘by what authority and this writ is an effective measure to prevent people from taking over public offices. The Writ of Quo Warranto is issued by the courts against a private person when he assumes an office on which he has no right. It is the discretionary power of the court to issue this Writ and therefore nobody can demand that the court is bound to issue this writ.
As the Constitution of India provides us with fundamental rights, it also provides the remedies in case these rights are violated. The writ is one such remedy that the Supreme Court under Article 32 and any High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution can issue if it believes that the fundamental rights or the legal rights (only applicable to the High Courts) have been violated.