Article 32(2) provides for the writ jurisdiction of the Supreme Court in India. Similarly, writ jurisdiction for High Courts is provided as to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibitions, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.

uses of five writs - Indian Constitution

Against whom can a writ be issued?

It’s a duty of the state to not abridge a person from the fundamental rights provided to him by the Constitution, hence a writ can be enforced against the State (as defined under Article 12 of the Constitution). But some fundamental rights such as rights under Article 17, 21, 23 and 24 are also available against private individuals hence writs can be enforced against violation of such rights by private persons.

Who can approach Court under writ jurisdiction?

The general principle is that the locus standi to approach the Supreme Court or High Court for enforcement of rights belongs to the person whose fundamental rights has been infringed. In common law, by the way of Public Interest Litigation(PIL) the locus standi to approach the court has been relaxed and stretched to a public-spirited third party.

Types of Writs in India

The Supreme Court of India is the defender of the fundamental rights of the citizens. For that, it has original and wide powers. It issues five kinds of writs for enforcing the fundamental rights of the citizens. The five types of writs are:

  1. Habeas Corpus
  2. Mandamus
  3. Prohibition
  4. Certiorari
  5. Quo-Warranto

Aspirants should go through these writs one-by-one as all of these are important for UPSC prelims and UPSC Mains and can help score well if understood with clarity.

Habeas Corpus

The Latin meaning of the word ‘Habeas Corpus’ is ‘To have the body of.’ This writ is used to enforce the fundamental right of individual liberty against unlawful detention. Through Habeas Corpus, Supreme Court/High Court orders one person who has arrested another person to bring the body of the latter before the court.

Facts about Habeas Corpus in India:

  • The Supreme Court or High Court can issue this writ against both private and public authorities.
  • Habeas Corpus can not be issued in the following cases:
    • When detention is lawful
    • When the proceeding is for contempt of a legislature or a court
    • Detention is by a competent court
    • Detention is outside the jurisdiction of the court


The literal meaning of this writ is ‘We command.’ This writ is used by the court to order the public official who has failed to perform his duty or refused to do his duty, to resume his work. Besides public officials, Mandamus can be issued against any public body, a corporation, an inferior court, a tribunal, or government for the same purpose.

Facts about Mandamus in India:

  • Unlike Habeas Corpus, Mandamus cannot be issued against a private individual
  • Mandamus can not be issued in the following cases:
    • To enforce departmental instruction that does not possess statutory force
    • To order someone to work when the kind of work is discretionary and not mandatory
    • To enforce a contractual obligation
    • Mandamus can’t be issued against the Indian President or State Governors
    • Against the Chief Justice of a High Court acting in a judicial capacity

For more on the writ of mandamus, click on the linked article.


The literal meaning of ‘Prohibition’ is ‘To forbid.’ A court that is higher in position issues a Prohibition writ against a court that is lower in position to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or usurping a jurisdiction that it does not possess. It directs inactivity.

Facts about Prohibition in India:

  • Writ of Prohibition can only be issued against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities.
  • It can’t be issued against administrative authorities, legislative bodies and private individuals or bodies.


The literal meaning of the writ of ‘Certiorari’ is ‘To be certified’ or ‘To be informed.’ This writ is issued by a court higher in authority to a lower court or tribunal ordering them either to transfer a case pending with them to itself or squash their order in a case. It is issued on the grounds of an excess of jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction or error of law. It not only prevents but also cures for the mistakes in the judiciary.

Facts about Certiorari in India:

  • Pre-1991: The writ of Certiorari used to be issued only against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities and not against administrative authorities
  • Post-1991: The Supreme Court ruled that the certiorari can be issued even against administrative authorities affecting the rights of individuals
  • It cannot be issued against legislative bodies and private individuals or bodies.


The literal meaning of the writ of ‘Quo-Warranto’ is ‘By what authority or warrant.’ Supreme Court or High Court issue this writ to prevent illegal usurpation of a public office by a person. Through this writ, the court enquires into the legality of a claim of a person to a public office

Facts about Quo-Warranto in India:

  • Quo-Warranto can be issued only when the substantive public office of a permanent character created by a statute or by the Constitution is involved
  • It can’t be issued against private or ministerial office

Note: This writ gives the right to seek redressal to any individual other than the aggrieved person.

General Facts about Writs in India:

  • Article 32 also empowers Parliament to authorize any other court to issue these writs
  • Before 1950, only the High Courts of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras had the power to issue the writs
  • Article 226 empowers all the High Courts of India to issue the writs
  • Writs of India are borrowed from English law where they are known as ‘Prerogative writs’

Difference between writ jurisdiction of�Supreme Court and high court in India

Articles 32 and 226 of the Indian constitution are the provisions of the Constitution that together provide an effective guarantee that every person has a fundamental right of access to courts.� It is a constitutional remedy available to a person to bring his complaint or protest against any administrative action to the notice of the court. Most important components of writ jurisdictions are to �Safeguard fundamental rights and the assurance of natural justice.

Article 32

Article 32 authorizes the Supreme Court to issue writs. Article 32 is a fundamental right, and it is included in Part �III of the Indian Constitution. This article is considered as a basic feature of the Constitution. During the emergency period, the fundamental rights can be suspended. Therefore Article 32 can also suspend.

The applicant can approach the SC considering it as a fundamental right.

Article 32 authorizes the SC to issue the writs only when the Fundamental Rights are violated or threatened.

The SC shall have the power to issue orders or writs, which includes writs in the nature of habeas corpus, prohibition, mandamus or quo warrant to and certiorari, whichever is appropriate for the enforcement of the rights discussed in this Part. Without bias to the powers discussed in the Supreme Court by clauses (1) and (2), Parliament can by law authorize any other court to exercise within the local limits of its jurisdiction or any of the powers exercisable by the SC under clause (2).

Article 226

�Article 226 authorizes every High Court to issue the writs. Article 32 is itself a fundamental right but Article 226 is not a fundamental right. During the period of Emergency, the Indian President cannot suspend Article 226 Article 226 is not a right as of Article 32.

According to its discretionary power, the High Court may issue writs.

Article 226 enables the HC to issue orders to writs in the nature of habeas corpus or mandamus or prohibition, certiorari and� quo warranto to protect distressed or for any other purpose.

The power conferred on the HC by this article shall not be in derogation of the power of the SC by clause (2) Article 32.

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