In pursuance of the Right to Constitutional Remedies for the violation of any of the enlisted fundamental rights under part III or others that are enshrined in the Constitution of India or otherwise, both the Supreme Court and the High Courts have been vested with the authority of issuing ‘writs’ under article 32 and 226 respectively. There are five types of writs that are issued in India: Habeas Corpus, Prohibition, Certiorari, Mandamus and Quo Warranto. Out of these, the writ of mandamus, which is a Latin term for ‘we command’, is an authoritative writ issued by a higher court to oblige a lower court or some government official(s) to dispense their sanctioned duties compulsorily and correctly.
Writ of Mandamus
According to the Ninth Edition of Black’s Law Dictionary, writ of mandamus is one that is issued against an inferior court, a governmental body or officer by a superior court to rectify an action of the past or omission to act along the lines of the responsibility that they are entitled to. Writ of Mandamus can also be issued against public corporations and tribunals. As it is directed to set the indolent authorities to task, it is also described as a “wakening call”, dictating their activity and setting them in action in pursuance of discharging public duty.
Grounds of the Writ of Mandamus
- There exists a legally sanctioned right of the petitioner or the applicant of the writ and a violation or compromise of this right has been committed.
- Another ground for the legality of issuing the writ of mandamus is the failure to act or perform the legal duty despite being demanded by the applicant for the same. This was also upheld by the Supreme Court in Saraswati Industrial Syndicate v. Union of India.
- The writ should be applied for in good faith, without any ulterior motive or intent on the part of the applicant.
- Lastly, the writ of mandamus can only be issued when no other recourse, redressal mechanism or legal alternatives have been left at the disposal of the applicant.
Writ of mandamus is basically a public law remedy of the common law system that, though can be rightfully applied for by any citizen whose rights have been violated by governmental or judicial bodies, is not sanctioned to be availed in cases of private wrongs. The writ of mandamus cannot be issued against the following:
- Private persons, institutions or organizations, if default, cannot be held accountable for their inaction by the issuance of mandamus.
- If the duty or the activity that is in the question of the public authority is not mandated by a compulsory obligation but is discretionary in nature, the writ of mandamus cannot be issued for the enforcement of such duties.
- The writ of mandamus cannot be issued against the Head of the State, that is, the President on a national level or Governor at the state level.
- The incumbent Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and distinct high courts are also exempted from being held accountable by the issuance of a writ of mandamus.
- For the enforcement of a contractual relationship that is private in nature, writ of mandamus cannot be issued for its enforcement.
- A writ of mandamus cannot be issued against any Member of Parliament (MP of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha) and any Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of any state for the purpose of providing a smooth functioning and conduct of the parliamentary deliberations.
- Mandamus cannot be issued against any legislative institution which is passing such a law that is in contravention of the fundamental rights promised under Part III of the Constitution. This was subsequently upheld by the apex court in Chotey Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors.The petitioner had moved a writ petition against the State of Uttar Pradesh as the state legislature had passed Zamindari Abolition and Land Reforms Bill in 1951 which was considered to be unconstitutional according to the applicant.
Therefore, the writ of mandamus can be rightly described as a legal instrument of ensuring general public interest, safeguarding their rights promised to them in the Constitution and other laws of the land. It is also an effective mechanism for maintaining accountability of the state or public authorities and mandating them to comply with their constitutional and statutory obligations. Thus, writ of mandamus is essentially a pro-democratic mechanism which empowers the common people to get their rights enforced by the administrative bodies.