- The Indian Constitution grants fundamental rights to all Indian citizens, as outlined in Articles 12-35.
- In case any citizen’s fundamental rights are violated by either the government or private entities, they have the option to seek remedies by filing writ petitions in the High Court or the Supreme Court, as specified in Articles 226 and 32 of the Indian Constitution. Among these, the prohibition writ holds a significant place.
- In this article, we will delve into the intricacies of the prohibition writ, its purpose, applications, and its significance in upholding justice.
Introduction to Writs in the Indian Constitution
- Writs are powerful tools that empower individuals to seek justice from the courts when their fundamental rights are violated.
- They are essentially court orders that command a specific action or prohibit certain actions by public authorities. The Indian Constitution recognizes five types of writs:
- Habeas corpus,
- Quo warranto, and
- Each of these writs serves a distinct purpose and contributes to the overall fabric of justice.
Instances Where Prohibition Writ Applies
- A writ of prohibition is a legal remedy issued by a higher court to prevent a lower court or tribunal from exceeding its jurisdiction or acting outside the bounds of the law.
- Here are the grounds on which a writ of prohibition can be issued:
Lack of Jurisdiction:
- The lower court or tribunal lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the case.
- The lower court exceeds its territorial jurisdiction.
Excess of Jurisdiction:
- The lower court or tribunal acts beyond the scope of its authorized powers.
- It makes decisions or rulings that it is not empowered to make under the law.
Violation of Legal Procedure:
- The lower court fails to follow prescribed legal procedures or violates principles of natural justice.
- There is a significant procedural irregularity that prejudices the rights of a party.
Error of Law:
- The lower court makes a clear error of law that affects the outcome of the case.
- It misinterprets or misapplies the law in a manner that is unjust.
Absence of Legal Authority:
- The lower court lacks the legal authority to hear a particular type of case or issue.
- The case involves a matter outside the court’s competence.
Bias or Prejudice:
- There is evidence of bias, prejudice, or a conflict of interest on the part of the lower court or its judges.
- This bias undermines the fairness of the proceedings.
Violation of Fundamental Rights:
- The lower court’s actions infringe upon fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution or other laws.
- These violations are of such a nature that they require intervention to protect individual rights.
Abuse of Discretion:
- The lower court or tribunal exercises its discretion in an arbitrary or capricious manner.
- It fails to consider relevant factors or considers irrelevant ones.
Failure to Observe Natural Justice:
- The lower court fails to provide a fair and impartial hearing to the parties involved.
- There is a breach of natural justice principles, such as the right to be heard and the right to a fair trial.
- In certain emergency situations, a writ of prohibition may be issued to prevent immediate and irreparable harm pending a full legal review.
The Role of Prohibition Writ in Safeguarding Rights
- The prohibition writ plays a pivotal role in upholding the rights and liberties of citizens.
- By preventing unauthorized or unjust proceedings, it ensures that individuals receive a fair trial and that their rights are protected.
- This writ acts as a shield against arbitrary actions, reinforcing the rule of law and the principles of justice.
The Process of Filing a Prohibition Writ
- To file a prohibition writ, the petitioner must establish that the lower court or authority is acting beyond its jurisdiction or violating natural justice principles.
- The petitioner, often through legal counsel, approaches the higher court and presents their case.
- The higher court then evaluates the merits of the case and decides whether to issue the writ, thereby halting the proceedings of the lower court.
Landmark Cases Involving Prohibition Writs
- This case involved a challenge to the constitutionality of certain provisions of the Preventive Detention Act, 1950.
- The petitioner, Brij Khandelwal, argued that the Act violated his fundamental rights under the Indian Constitution.
- The Supreme Court of India, in its judgment, upheld the validity of the Act while emphasizing that preventive detention must be used sparingly and for specific purposes.
S. Govind Menon v. Union of India (1967)
- In this case, the petitioner challenged the imposition of a tax on his profession as an advocate, arguing that it violated his right to practice his profession freely.
- The Supreme Court ruled that the tax did not infringe on his fundamental rights and was a valid exercise of the government’s taxing power.
Hari Vishnu v. Syed Ahmed Ishaque (1955)
- This case dealt with a dispute over the eviction of a tenant from a property.
- The central issue was whether the Bombay Rent Act applied to the premises in question.
- The Supreme Court held that the Act did not apply, and the tenant was not protected by its provisions.
Prudential Capital Markets Ltd v. The State of A.P. and others (2000)
- In this case, the petitioner, Prudential Capital Markets Ltd., challenged the imposition of a stamp duty by the State of Andhra Pradesh on share transfer instruments.
- The Supreme Court held that the state government did not have the legislative competence to impose such a duty, and the levy was declared ultra vires (beyond its legal authority).
Differences between the five writs in the Indian Constitution
|Latin for “You shall have the body”
|To safeguard personal liberty
|Unlawful detention or imprisonment
|Ensures immediate release of the person detained without proper legal authority.
|Latin for “We command”
|To compel public officials to perform their duties
|Public officials, government bodies
|Ensures that public servants perform their legal duties properly and do not abuse their powers.
|To forbid or prohibit
|To prevent a lower court from exceeding its jurisdiction
|Prevents a lower court from making decisions outside its jurisdiction or in violation of legal principles.
|Latin for “To be certified”
|To quash the orders or decisions of a lower court or tribunal
|Lower courts, quasi-judicial bodies, tribunals
|Reviews and sets aside decisions made by lower courts or tribunals if they are found to be illegal, ultra vires, or in excess of jurisdiction.
|Latin for “By what authority”
|To question the appointment of a person to a public office
|Persons holding public office
|Challenges the authority of a person holding a public office if they do not meet the eligibility criteria or are disqualified.
- The prohibition writ stands as a powerful testament to the Indian Constitution’s commitment to justice and fairness.
- By restraining authorities from overstepping their bounds and safeguarding the rights of individuals, this writ ensures that the principles enshrined in the Constitution remain relevant and robust.
- As citizens continue to seek remedies against unjust actions, the prohibition writ remains a steadfast protector of their rights.
The Indian Constitution includes several fundamental rights and provisions to protect the rights of its citizens. While there are more than five writs, the five most commonly used writs under Article 32 and Article 226 of the Indian Constitution are:
- Habeas Corpus: This writ is used to safeguard an individual's right to personal liberty. It ensures that a person detained unlawfully is brought before the court, and if the detention is found to be illegal, the person must be released.
- Mandamus: Mandamus means "We Command" in Latin. This writ is issued by a higher court to a lower court, public authority, or government official to perform a public or statutory duty that they have failed to carry out.
- Prohibition: The writ of prohibition is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal to prevent it from exceeding its jurisdiction or acting in a manner contrary to the laws.
- Certiorari: This writ is used to quash the orders or decisions of lower courts, tribunals, or public authorities when they act in excess of their jurisdiction or without jurisdiction.
- Quo Warranto: Quo warranto means "By what authority" in Latin. This writ is used to question the legality of a person holding a public office and to determine whether they have the legal right or authority to hold that office.
These writs play a crucial role in upholding the fundamental rights of citizens and ensuring that government authorities and institutions act within the bounds of the law.