The term ‘habeas corpus’ literally means ‘produce the body’. In this context, it refers to a direction from a court to bring a person before the court. If a person is illegally restrained and deprived of their liberty, a writ petition for habeas corpus can be filed to ask the court to secure their release. The court can issue the writ of habeas corpus to any public authority having a person unlawfully in their custody and order the authority to bring the person before the court. In this manner, the court inquires into the circumstances of any person’s detention and can give the necessary judgement against unlawful restraint2. The court can also issue the writ of habeas corpus in cases of illegal inhuman treatment of prisoners3. The application for habeas corpus can be filed by the imprisoned/detained person or by anyone else who is not an absolute stranger to them.
For example, if a prisoner is being ill-treated in prison, they can file a habeas corpus petition against such treatment.
The court issues a writ of mandamus to order an authority to perform their public duty as required by law4. To get this remedy, it is necessary to show that the public authority has a mandatory legal duty and the petitioner has a legal right to enforce its performance5. However, people cannot file for a writ of mandamus against the President of India or the Governor of a State6, or officers in legislatures7. Before applying for mandamus, the petitioner should have first approached the authority with a distinct demand which the authority refuses to enforce8.
For example, if, despite repeated complaints, a Municipal Corporation refuses to perform its legal duty of supplying water to an area, a person living in that area can file a mandamus petition to make the Corporation perform its duty.
The writ of certiorari is applicable when someone with legal authority and a judicial duty to make decisions affecting the rights of people, exceeds their legal authority. The court can issue this remedy to cancel the order of any lower judicial authority which has exceeded its legal powers and made a decision despite not having the power to do so9.
For example, if an Industrial Tribunal delivers a judgement on a non-industrial dispute without having the authority to do so, an aggrieved person can approach the concerned High Court/Supreme Court with a petition for certiorari to cancel the Tribunal’s decision.
The court can issue the writ of prohibition to order any lower court/tribunal to stop legal proceedings on a certain matter10. This remedy is used to restrain a lower judicial authority from exceeding its legal authority and to confine lower courts/tribunals within their judicial boundaries. Prohibition can also be used in case a lower judicial authority has not obeyed the rules of natural justice i.e., if the authority shows bias or does not hear out both parties11.
For example, if an Industrial Tribunal takes up a non-industrial dispute without having the authority to judge the dispute, an aggrieved person can approach the concerned High Court/Supreme Court with a petition for prohibition to stop the ongoing legal proceedings before the Tribunal.
The writ of quo warranto is a remedy which allows the court to ask any person who holds a public office to prove their right to hold the office. In case they don’t have the right to hold the public position, they will be removed from that office by a judicial order. This remedy controls the executive from making illegal appointments to a public office, and protects citizens from people who illegally hold public office depriving citizens of their rights. To claim quo warranto, a petitioner has to show the court that the office is a public office and that the person holding it has no legal authority to hold the office. This will lead to an inquiry on whether their appointment has been made legally12.
For example, if someone feels that the Speaker of a Legislative Assembly does not have the qualifications to hold this public office, they can approach the Court to issue a writ of quo warranto to inquire about the appointment.0
- Article 32(2), Constitution of India, 1950.
- Kanu Sanyal v. District Magistrate, Darjeeling, 1973 AIR 2684
- Sunil Batra v. Delhi Administration, 1980 AIR 1579
- State of Mysore & Anr. v. K.N. Chandrasekhara & Anr., 1965 AIR (SC) 532
- Rai Shivendra Bahadur v. Governing Body of Nalanda College, AIR 1962 SC 1210
- Article 361, Constitution of India, 1950
- Articles 122(2) and 212(2), Constitution of India, 1950
- Saraswati Industrial Syndicate Ltd. v. Union of India, 1975 AIR 460
- Province of Bombay v. Kusaldas S. Advani & Ors., 1950 AIR 222
- East India Commercial Company Ltd. v. The Collector of Customs, 1962 AIR 1893
- S. Govinda Menon v. Union of India, 1967 AIR 1274
- University of Mysore v. Govinda Rao, 1965 AIR 41