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Writs Issued by High Courts and the Supreme Court

Indian courts grant writs of different natures for the protection of fundamental rights and ensuring justice. A writ cannot be issued by a court subordinate or lower to the High Court. The five major types of writs that are issued by Indian courts are as given in the Constitution of India, in Articles 32 (By Supreme Court) and 226 (By High Courts).

Five Major Types of Writs:

Habeas Corpus: The purpose of Habeas Corpus is to safeguard an individual's right to personal freedom. It is granted when an individual is brought before the court in regards to their imprisonment or detainment, in order to determine the legality of their confinement and ensure their release if it is deemed unlawful.

Explanation: One instance of habeas corpus can be seen when a person is apprehended by the authorities without a valid warrant or valid reason. The person or their representative then files a petition in court, seeking a writ of habeas corpus to question the lawfulness of their detention. The court then instructs the detaining authority to bring the detained individual before it. Upon examination, if the court determines that the arrest was unjustified or violated the person's constitutional rights, it can order for their immediate release, safeguarding their freedom from unjust government intervention.


The writ of mandamus may be requested by the petitioner and granted to them in order to force any public officer or government authority, or any lower court or tribunal, to perform a certain legal duty incumbent upon them but which they have not fulfilled.

Explanation: An illustration of mandamus can be seen when an individual submits an application for a government-issued license, like a driver's license, but is faced with unreasonable delays or denial by the licensing authority without valid reasons. In this situation, the individual can file a petition in court for a writ of mandamus, which seeks to force the licensing authority to fulfil its legal obligation and promptly issue the license. Upon determining that the authority has unjustly withheld the license and has a clear legal duty to grant it, the court may grant the writ of mandamus, instructing the authority to issue the license without any further delays. This ensures that the individual's rights are protected and that administrative duties are fulfilled.


It is a writ from a superior court to an inferior court or tribunal commanding it to suspend the proceedings in some action or other matter where there is no right of appeal and prevent that authority from exercising a jurisdiction that does not exist or acting beyond its lawful authority.

Explanation: When a lower court tries to handle a case that falls outside of its jurisdiction, it is a clear example of prohibition. For instance, if a local court without jurisdiction over a dispute involving national law tries to make a decision on it, a higher court can intervene by issuing a writ of prohibition. This writ serves as a legal order that stops the lower court from continuing with the case. It ensures that judicial proceedings stay within the limits of their legal authority and prevents any possible injustice from occurring until the jurisdictional matter is resolved.


Certiorari is a higher court order that cancels an order or decision made by a lower court, tribunal, or any other authority because it was done outside its jurisdiction or in contravention of principles of natural justice.

Explanation: One example of the use of certiorari is when an individual requests a higher court to review a decision made by a lower court, citing legal errors. In this scenario, if a person is dissatisfied with the outcome of their case in a district court due to what they perceive as a misinterpretation of the law or a violation of their legal rights, they can file a petition with a higher court, such as an appellate court, for a writ of certiorari.

If the writ is granted, the higher court will examine the lower court's decision, focusing on legal issues rather than re-examining the facts of the case. If the higher court identifies any errors or irregularities in the lower court's ruling, it has the power to reverse the decision, thereby correcting any legal injustices and ensuring the proper application of the law.

Quo Warranto:

When the appointment or election of a person to a public office is contested, Quo Warranto, a legal proceeding, is used to determine whether that person is qualified and entitled to hold that office.

Explanation: An instance of quo warranto can be seen when a concerned member of the public questions the eligibility of a person in a public position, such as a mayor or a governing body member, based on suspicions of illegality or inadequate qualifications. The citizen then files a petition for a writ of quo warranto in court, challenging the individual's right to hold the office and requiring them to prove their legal entitlement.

If the court deems the petition valid and determines that the individual is indeed ineligible or unlawfully occupying the position, it may grant the writ, compelling the individual to demonstrate their legal authority or face removal from the position. This ensures the credibility of public office and guarantees that only suitable individuals hold positions of power.

Other Writs:

The following writs may also be issued in addition to some other writs in a varied form in different countries:

Habeas Data:

The writ of habeas data is used to guarantee a person's right to privacy and self-determination concerning their personal information. It permits individuals to obtain and rectify data stored by governmental bodies or private firms.

Explanation: An example of habeas data is when a person asks a government agency or private organization for access to their personal information, such as employment records or medical history. If the person suspects that the data is incorrect or being used illegally, they can ask the court for a writ of habeas data. This allows them to review the information and potentially correct or delete it.

For example, if someone discovers mistakes in their credit report that could harm their financial status, they can request a writ of habeas data to fix the errors and safeguard their reputation and creditworthiness. If the court grants the writ, the person can obtain their personal data and take legal action to ensure its accuracy and lawful use, protecting their privacy rights and guaranteeing fair treatment regarding their personal information.

Injunction: An injunction is a court order that compels a party to perform an act or refrain from doing so, usually to prevent damage or protect rights pending litigation.

Example: One instance where an injunction may be used is when a homeowner finds out that their neighbour intends to construct a building that goes against zoning laws, potentially causing damage or blocking the homeowner's view. In such a case, the homeowner can ask the court for an injunction to stop construction until a final legal decision is made. If the court approves the injunction, it directs the neighbour to temporarily halt the construction, preventing any additional harm or changes to the property until the legal dispute is settled. This injunction is put in place to maintain the current state of affairs and safeguard the homeowner's rights while giving the legal system time to determine the appropriate steps to take.

Conclusion: A writ is a legally binding written order issued by a court or other authorized body, mandating specific action or enforcing a particular right. Its purpose is to enable the judiciary to exercise its power to compel individuals, organizations, or government entities to comply with legal obligations or safeguard individuals' liberties. Writs are typically granted in response to petitions or applications submitted to the court, and they are enforceable through legal measures, such as fines or imprisonment for non-compliance.

Writs play a critical role in upholding the rule of law, maintaining order, and safeguarding individual freedoms within a legal framework. They cover a broad range of legal actions, including summoning individuals to court, directing government officials to perform their duties, restraining unlawful behaviour, and reviewing decisions made by lower courts. Common types of writs include habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, certiorari, and quo warranto, each serving a distinct legal purpose.

In essence, writs are tools of justice utilized by the judiciary to uphold the law, protect rights, and ensure fair and just treatment under the legal system. They provide a means for individuals to seek recourse for grievances and hold accountable those who violate legal norms or fail to fulfil their obligations.

Written By: Md.Imran Wahab
, IPS, IGP, Provisioning, West Bengal
Email: [email protected], Ph no: 9836576565

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