Enshrined under Part V of the Constitution of India, Article 226 provides the High Courts with the power to issue writs, including writs in the form of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, certiorari, or any of them, to any person or authority, including the government. Article 226 of the Indian Constitution gives High Courts the power and ability to enforce any of the basic fundamental rights guaranteed by Part IV of the Constitution of India, 1949, or for any other reason. Clause (1) of this Article provides that, ‘Notwithstanding anything in Article 32 every High Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercises jurisdiction, 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.
Thus, Article 226 of the Indian Constitution endowed the high court with the power to issue the aforementioned orders and writs to any individual or authority, inclusive of government so as to effectuate the legal rights of each citizen.
Keywords: power, authority, fundamental rights
The judiciary plays an indispensable role in the democratic framework of India. It acts as a bulwark against the potential misuse of power by government officials, ensuring that the principles enshrined in the Indian Constitution are neither compromised nor eroded. The importance of the judiciary in India’s democratic ethos is reflected in the Constitution’s vision of a robust, independent, and well-structured judicial system. A crucial instrument in the judicial arsenal is Article 226 of the Indian Constitution. This provision empowers the High Court to issue various orders and writs to any individual or authority, thereby reinforcing its role as a custodian of rights and justice. However, this power is not absolute or unchecked. To evoke the provisions of Article 226, the petitioner must demonstrate a clear infringement or threat to their legal rights. Furthermore, the jurisdictional ambit of the High Court under Article 226 is expansive. Even if the cause of action arises partly within its territorial jurisdiction, the Court retains the authority to issue writs and directives to any government entity, authority, or individual, irrespective of their geographical location. However, there are instances where the High Court exercises restraint. For instance, the Court often refrains from intervening in matters primarily based on factual disputes. Likewise, if a petitioner possesses an alternative legal recourse, the High Court may be reluctant to entertain petitions under Article 226. Furthermore, a significant delay in approaching the Court could lead to the denial of relief under this article. These exceptions underscore the principle that while the judiciary is powerful, it is also prudent in exercising its powers.
The essence of granting the High Court the privileges under Article 226 is deeply rooted in upholding the rule of law, a foundational tenet of any democratic society. It serves as a reminder to executive authorities that their powers are not unfettered. When they cross the line, infringing upon the rights of citizens, the judiciary stands ready to ensure accountability. Through Article 226, the Constitution provides an essential check and balance, ensuring that India remains a land where justice, freedom, and individual rights flourish.
The Indian Constitution is a meticulously drafted document that enshrines the principles and values upon which the world’s largest democracy functions. One of the pillars of this constitutional structure is the judicial system, designed to uphold the rights of citizens, ensure the rule of law, and act as a check against potential governmental overreaches. Article 226, embedded within this framework, is an essential provision that vests the High Courts with a set of expansive powers, thus ensuring the protection of individual rights and the principles of justice. This article delves deep into the facets of Article 226, tracing its historical evolution, its significance, its scope, and its limitations.
- Habeas Corpus: “Habeas Corpus,” a Latin term meaning “you shall have the body,” is a fundamental judicial remedy that safeguards an individual’s freedom against arbitrary and unlawful detention. It is a writ that commands an individual or governmental authority to produce a person they are holding in custody before a court, to ascertain the legality of the detention. Originating from the English common law system, this writ has become a cornerstone of civil liberties in democracies worldwide. The primary objective of habeas corpus is to provide a swift remedy against illegal confinement, ensuring that no individual is deprived of their liberty without just cause. In the context of the Indian Constitution, the right to move the Supreme Court for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights, including the writ of habeas corpus, is guaranteed under Article 32. Similarly, High Courts can also issue this writ under Article 226. The importance of habeas corpus cannot be understated. It acts as a check against arbitrary arrests and detentions, ensuring that the power of the state is exercised within the bounds of law and that individual freedoms remain protected.
- Prohibition: “Prohibition” is a legal term referring to a writ issued by a higher court directing a lower court or tribunal to halt proceedings in a particular case. Its primary function is to prevent the lower court or tribunal from overstepping its jurisdiction or acting contrary to the rules of natural justice. In essence, the writ of prohibition ensures that courts and tribunals operate within their designated legal boundaries. Different from the writ of “certiorari” which commands a lower court to send the record of proceedings in a case for review, prohibition prevents the proceedings from continuing altogether when there is a clear absence of jurisdiction or a noticeable violation of fundamental rights. In the context of the Indian legal system, both the Supreme Court (under Article 32) and the High Courts (under Article 226) have the power to issue the writ of prohibition. This writ serves as a crucial tool in the arsenal of higher judiciary to maintain the rule of law, ensuring that lower judicial or quasi-judicial bodies do not abuse or misinterpret their conferred powers.
- Quo Warranto: “Quo Warranto,” a Latin phrase meaning “by what authority,” is a legal writ used to challenge an individual’s right to hold a public office or exercise a public function. It’s essentially a procedural tool that questions the legality of a person’s claim to a public position. The primary objective of a quo warranto proceeding is to ensure that governmental authority is exercised by individuals who have a valid title to that office, preventing illegal usurpation of public roles. If the court finds that the person does not have a valid claim or has acquired the position through illegitimate means, it can command the person to vacate the office. In the context of the Indian Constitution, High Courts have been vested with the power to issue writs of quo warranto under Article 226. This ensures that only individuals with a legitimate and lawful claim hold public positions, thereby safeguarding the principles of democracy and rule of law.
- Certiorari: Certiorari,” stemming from the Latin phrase meaning “to be informed,” is a writ issued by a superior court directing a lower court, tribunal, or public authority to transmit the record of proceedings in a particular case for review. Its primary purpose is to check the jurisdiction and correct errors of judgment or procedure in inferior courts or quasi-judicial bodies.
The writ of certiorari serves a dual function:-
- To ensure that the lower court or tribunal has not exceeded its authority or jurisdiction
- To ensure that the lower body has not acted in violation of the principles of natural justice or fundamental rights
In the Indian judicial system, both the Supreme Court (under Article 32) and the High Courts (under Article 226) possess the power to issue the writ of certiorari. It acts as an essential tool for the higher judiciary to oversee and correct errors, ensuring that justice is dispensed in adherence to the principles of law.
To appreciate the nuances of Article 226, one must understand the historical context in which it was formulated. During the British colonial rule, the High Courts were granted specific powers to issue prerogative writs. The Framers of the Indian Constitution, acknowledging the importance of such a provision in upholding justice, expanded and institutionalized these powers within Article 226.
IMPORTANCE OF ARTICLE 226
Article 226 is not just a procedural tool; it’s a reflection of the Constitution’s commitment to justice. While the Supreme Court, under Article 32, is empowered to enforce fundamental rights, Article 226 broadens this spectrum. The High Courts, under this provision, can address violations of both fundamental and other legal rights. This broad ambit ensures that justice isn’t restricted merely to constitutional breaches but encompasses a wider realm of potential legal infringements.
The powers under Article 226 are vast. High Courts can issue orders, directions, and writs, including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari, depending on the nature of the infringement and the desired relief. This versatility ensures that the judiciary can tailor its response to the unique demands of each case. Moreover, Article 226’s jurisdictional purview is extensive. Even if the cause of action arises partially within the territorial jurisdiction of a High Court, it can issue directives to any government, authority, or individual, regardless of their geographical position.
LIMITATIONS AND JUDICIAL RESTRAINT
While Article 226 is a powerful tool, the judiciary exercises this power with prudence and circumspection. Firstly, matters rooted mainly in factual disputes are generally kept out of its purview. The rationale behind this is that detailed factual assessments are better suited for lower courts.
Additionally, if a petitioner has an alternate legal remedy available, High Courts often refrain from invoking Article 226. This principle of “exhaustion of alternative remedies” ensures that the provision isn’t misused and that the judicial process remains efficient.
Furthermore, laches or undue delay in approaching the court might lead to denial of relief. This principle is grounded in the adage, “Equity aids the vigilant, not the indolent.
COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS WITH ARTICLE 32
A comparison with Article 32 reveals some distinguishing features. While Article 32 is limited to the enforcement of fundamental rights, Article 226 has a wider ambit. However, it’s crucial to note that while the Supreme Court is constitutionally obligated to enforce fundamental rights under Article 32, High Courts have discretionary powers under Article 226.
- In Lallubhai Jogibhai Patel vs Union Of India & Ors, 1980 it was held that no second petition for the writ of habeas corpus is maintainable in the court if filed on the same grounds as of the first one.
- In Bandhua Mukti Morcha Vs. Union of India that all the high courts could exercise its power granted by Article 226 for not only the enforcement of fundamental rights but all other legal of a citizen as well.
- T. Nagappa vs T.C. Basappa And Ors. on 15 September, 1955:, the Supreme Court ruled on the scope of ‘certiorari’. The court held that ‘certiorari’ is available not just for excess of jurisdiction or absence of jurisdiction, but also when there’s an error apparent on the face of the record.
Over the years, several landmark judgments have shaped the interpretation and application of Article 226. Notable among these are the cases of L. Chandra Kumar vs. Union of India and Rashid Ahmed vs. Municipal Board, Kairana. These cases, among others, have reinforced the concept that while Article 226 is broad in its scope, its powers must be exercised judiciously.
Article 226 embodies the essence of the Indian judicial system’s commitment to upholding justice, acting as a vital tool to keep executive and administrative actions in check. While its powers are vast, they are wielded with care and responsibility. In a vibrant democracy like India, where the rights of citizens are paramount, provisions like Article 226 ensure that justice is not just a concept but a lived reality.
- Introduction (https://legalvidhiya.com/article-226-under-indian-constitution/#:~:text=Article%20226(1)%20of%20the,rights%20and%20for%20other%20purpose.)
- ABSTRACT (https://lawcorner.in/article-226-of-indian-constitution-analysis-and-interpretation/)