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High Courts cannot exercise writ jurisdiction against judicial orders of the subordinate civil courts: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is of the view that the High Courts under their writ jurisdiction cannot interfere with the judicial orders of civil courts. The Court was referring to High Courts exercising their jurisdiction vis-à-vis the writ of certiorari, quashing the order of lower courts, tribunals as well as quasi-judicial bodies under Art. 226 of the Constitution.

A bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu, Justice A K Sikri and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel gave the decision in a reference to the Chief Justice of India seeking a pronouncement by the Supreme Court on the correctness of the view taken in the Surya DevRai case. The question of law involved in the case related to authority of a High Court to issue a writ of certiorari against the judicial order of a civil court.

Earlier, a two judge bench of the Supreme Court had disagreed with the earlier precedent on the particular issue. Consequently, the matter was referred to the Chief Justice for an authoritative opinion by a larger bench. The 3 judge bench, in its opinion agreed with the earlier verdict of the two judge bench, stating that a writ of mandamus does not lie against a private person for the non-performance of a public obligation/duty.

The three judge bench observed in its opinion that judicial order of civil court shall not interfered by the exercise of the High Court’s writ jurisdiction as per Article 226 of the Constitution. The said observation is opposed to the view in Surya DevRai, which was comprehensively overruled by the reference. Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, who wrote the judgment on behalf of the bench, referred to a plethora of precedents on the matter before observing that the expression ‘judicial acts’ is not synonymous with the judicial orders of the civil courts. The Court clarified that order of judicial courts are different in form than quasi-judicial orders of authorities or tribunals.

Further, the Supreme Court observed that the mechanisms and technical nuances specific to the prerogative writs in England are of no consequence in India, as the Indian courts function under the scheme provided under the Constitution. The constitutional scheme provides that every court within the jurisdiction of the High Court is subordinate to the High Court under Article 227. The opinion noted that no precedent exists in India for High Courts to issue writs to subordinate civil courts. The High Court exercises supervision over the proceeding of the subordinate courts with respect to their judicial orders, solely by way of appellate or revisionary powers or power of superintendence available to the High Court under Article 227.

 by Siddhartha Singh.