Writ of Mandamus: Meaning, Types, and Important Judgements

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

Mandamus Writ is a legal remedy that a court can issue as an order to any government, the lower court, business, or public authority. One of the significant writs authorised by the Indian Constitution is the mandamus. The mandamus’s goal is to keep public officials within their purview as they carry out their duties. Only the High Courts and the Supreme Court in India have the authority to issue writs. Article 226 of the Indian Constitution grants the High Courts the authority to issue writs, whereas Article 32 grants the Supreme Court the authority to do so.

The Writ of Mandamus is one of the five writs. One can study the same in Indian Polity. Every year, one can expect at least 1-2 questions on the topic of Mandamus; thus, an aspirant should know every detail about it for the UPSC Exam.

Mandamus Writ

The Latin phrase “writ Mandamus” means “we command.” It refers to a directive or order given to compel a person, business, lower court, or government to carry out a task for which they are legally responsible. Any person harmed by a violation or abuse of such a public obligation and has the legal authority to require that it be performed may petition a High Court or the Supreme Court for issuing a writ of mandamus.

In other words, this writ is issued when the court believes that a specific office holder is not fulfilling their legal duty and is violating a person’s rights.

It requires the person or entity to carry out a public or quasi-public duty that they have refused to do and for whom there is no other sufficient legal remedy to compel compliance. The writ of mandamus requires action from a person or entity when issued to them.

Writ of Mandamus: Constitutional Provisions

The Supreme Court and the high courts have the authority to grant types of writs, such as habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto under Article 32. Despite the High Court’s jurisdiction under Article 226 and the Supreme Court’s position as India’s top court, the Supreme Court has the power to issue Writs of Mandamus even against the High Court. As a result, only inferior courts, such as district trial courts, may receive a mandate under Article 226 from a high court.

  • The Supreme Court bench concluded that the Court could not order the establishment of a tribunal by issuing a Writ of Mandamus.
  • The Indian Constitution’s Article 245 and Article 246 prohibit the Court from ordering a state legislature to enact laws on any matter.
  • The petition was dismissed because it was further ruled that such a petition could not be entertained.

Writ of Mandamus: Conditions for Issuance

Before a Mandamus Writ can be granted, the following requirements must be met:

  • The individual or entity that the writ is intended to be issued against must have some public obligation that he has neglected to fulfil.
  • There must be a failure in the discharge of such a public responsibility, and it must be of an imperative or mandatory nature rather than discretionary.
  • The authority or individual against whom the petitioner seeks to issue the writ of mandamus shall be subject to the petitioner’s legal right to compel.
  • When the authority was asked by the petitioner to carry out a public duty but declined to.

Writ of Mandamus: Conditions for Non-Issuance

The following circumstances prevent the issuance of a mandamus writ:

  • It cannot be used to carry out contractual responsibilities or rights.
  • Since private institutions that receive donations are not made public, there is no legal obligation to do anything, and no mandamus will be issued.
  • It is not unlawful to order a private arbitration to submit an award.
  • Mandamus cannot alter a Governor’s decree that commuted a death sentence that had already been upheld by the High Court.
  • Mandamus cannot be used to override a licence granted by a body that has been legally granted that authority.

Purpose of Mandamus

Comparing Articles 32 and 226 reveals that the reasons that High Courts and the Supreme Court may issue a Mandamus differ. Among the reasons for which a writ of mandamus may be granted are the following:

  • The court will issue a writ of mandamus to prevent a public servant or the government from taking action against the harmed party in order to enforce fundamental rights.
  • A High Court, but not the Supreme Court, may issue a Mandamus Writ for various reasons. Here are some of them:
    • to prevent the government or a public officer from applying any unconstitutional laws.
    • to make a court or tribunal use its authority when it has declined to do so.
    • to compel someone to carry out their statutory or constitutionally mandated public responsibility.
    • when a public official exploits their position of authority improperly, willfully, or excessively, or when they act without thinking, or when they abuse their discretion.

Writ Mandamus in Administrative Law

The Indian Constitution, enshrined in Part III, guarantees its citizens several fundamental rights and liberties, including the right to life, freedom of speech and expression, equality, and others. But simply providing rights is insufficient.

  • The state must act to protect and defend the constitutionally guaranteed rights of Indian citizens.
  • When a wrong or injustice affects anyone in any part of the state, the state should provide a remedy to correct the wrong or injustice.
  • When citizens’ rights are violated, there must be a process in place for them to seek justice. The definition of “writ” can be found here.
  • In India, only the Supreme Court and the High Courts have the authority to issue writs.
  • Article 226 of the Indian Constitution gives the High Courts the right to issue writs, but Article 32 gives the Supreme Court such jurisdiction.
  • The distinction between writs and orders must be made. A writ is issued to give an extraordinary remedy, but an order is issued for a more general purpose and can be issued regarding any case.

Types of Mandamus

By looking at the judgements pertaining to Mandamus, one can discover that there are three different types of Mandamus in the Indian legal system, namely:

Certiorarified Mandamus

  • When a case has already been heard by a lower court or when its jurisdiction has been overstepped, the writ of certiorari is used to provide a judicial review.
  • The order of the inferior court shall be invalidated upon its issuance. When a jurisdiction has been refused to be exercised, a writ of mandamus may be issued.
  • The writs of Mandamus and Certiorari may occasionally coexist and support one another. When a writ of certiorari overturns a matter, it may be tried afresh in accordance with the law if a writ of mandamus is later issued.

Anticipatory Mandamus

A Mandamus Writ cannot be issued based solely on the petitioner’s fear that his fundamental rights or those of anyone else under the law would be violated or that a public body will fail to carry out its obligations under the law, as has been established in a number of rulings.

Continuing Mandamus

After the issuance of a writ of mandamus, ongoing supervision may be necessary for some circumstances. In such circumstances, the court may order surveillance on a temporary basis and may also request the submission of a compliance report.

Limitations of Mandamus Writ

The limitations of the Writ of Mandamus are:

  • A state’s president or governor cannot be subject to a mandamus order “for the exercise and performance of the powers and duties of his office or for any conduct done or purported to be done by him in the exercise and performance of those powers and duties,” according to Article 361.
  • Additionally, the writ cannot be issued against a private person or entity unless the State colludes with the private party to violate a law or the Constitution.

Writ of Mandamus: Important Judgements

Citizens who feel wronged by a government official violating their fundamental or statutory rights while performing a public obligation may seek the writ of mandamus as a legal remedy. It is crucial for maintaining the state’s accountability to its people and protecting them from the government’s abuse of its power. The request for a writ of mandamus must be made sincerely and without any doubt or hidden agendas. The purpose of the application should be to serve justice, not to harass the respondent.

Some important judgements related to the Writ of Mandamus are:

  • The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Sohanlal v. Union of India (1957) that the Writ of Mandamus will only be valid against a private person if it can be demonstrated that he is affiliated with a public entity.
  • Rashid Ahmad v. Municipal Board (1950) established that the issuance of writs could not be completely prohibited even when there are other remedies available in circumstances of basic rights violations.
  • In the matter of Sharif Ahmad v. HTA., Meerut (1977), the petitioner asked the SC to execute the tribunal’s rulings after the respondent refused to follow them. The Supreme Court issued the respondent a Mandamus directing them to follow the tribunal’s rulings.
  • The Supreme Court of India’s judges ruled in the famous case of SP Gupta v. Union of India (1981) that the president of India cannot be subject to a writ ordering him to determine the number of judges on the High Court and fill vacancies. The courts cannot issue a writ of mandamus against officials like the president and governors.
  • In C.G. Govindan v. the State of Gujarat (1991), the court declined to issue a writ of mandamus against the governor to force him to accept the court staff’s salary, which was set by the chief justice of the high court in accordance with Article 229 of the constitution. It was decided that a governor cannot be the target of a writ of mandamus.

Mandamus UPSC

The Writ of Mandamus is one of the five writs that the Supreme Court can issue. The topic is covered under the polity segment of the UPSC Syllabus. The topic is more relevant from the UPSC Prelims perspective, as direct questions have been asked multiple times.

Mandamus Writ UPSC Questions

Question: Consider the following statements:

  1. it is issued by the court to public and private officials, asking them to perform their duties
  2. it can be issued against any public body
  3. it can be issued against a private individual or body

Which of the following statement(s) is/are correct about mandamus

  1. Only 1 and 2
  2. Only 2
  3. Only 1 and 3
  4. 1, 2 and 3

Answer: Option B

Question: Which of the following writ is called a bulwark of individual liberty against arbitrary detention?

  1. Mandamus
  2. Habeas Corpus
  3. Certiorari
  4. Prohibition

Answer: Option B

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