Writ Jurisdiction of Supreme Court and High Court – Types of Writs and Scope

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A writ is a directive issued by the Supreme Court and High Courts in India to carry out their directives for the enforcement of the fundamental right and/or legal right of the affected person. The Supreme Court can issue writs under Article 32 of the Constitution while the High Courts can issue writs under Article 226 of the Constitution. The different types of writs and their scope are explained below.

How is the Writ Jurisdiction of High Courts Wider than the Supreme Court?

The Supreme Court can issue writs only for the enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 32, whereas, the High Courts can issue writs for the enforcement of fundamental rights as well as for any other purpose i.e. enforcement of ordinary legal rights as well. This makes their writs jurisdiction wider. However, the territorial jurisdiction of the writs issued by the Supreme Court is applicable throughout the country while the writs issued by the High Court have validity only in the territory under the authority of the High Court or where the cause of action has arisen.

Different Types of Writs and their Scope

Habeas Corpus

It literally means ‘to have the body of’. It is issued against both private and public persons to produce the body of a person who has been illegally detained by the public or private person. Thus it is a bulwark against illegal detention.

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It literally means ‘we command’. The writ of mandamus is a command issued by the court to a public official asking him or her to perform his or her official duties that he or she  has failed or refused to perform. It can also be issued against any public body, a corporation, an inferior court, a tribunal or government for the same purpose. The writ of mandamus cannot issued against a private individual or body.


It literally means ‘to forbid’. The writ of prohibition is issued by a higher court like the High Court to a lower court like the District Court or Tribunal to prevent the latter from exceeding its jurisdiction or taking over a jurisdiction that it did not possess in the first instance. Therefore the writ of prohibition is opposite to mandamus in so far as unlike mandamus that directs activity, the writ of prohibition directs inactivity.

The writ of prohibition can only be issued against judicial and quasi-judicial authorities and not against administrative authorities, legislative bodies, and private individuals or bodies.


The writ of certiorari is issued by a higher court to a lower court or tribunal either to transfer a case pending with the latter to itself or to squash the order of the latter in a case on the grounds of excess jurisdiction or lack of jurisdiction or error of law. Thus, unlike prohibition, which is only preventive in nature, the writ of certiorari is both preventive as well as curative.


Quo-warranto literally means ‘by what authority or warrant’. In this sense it is asking a asking to a public authority. It is issued by the court to enquire into the legality of claim of a person to a public office to prevent illegal occupation of the office by the person.

The writ of quo-warranto can be issued only in case of a substantive public office of a permanent character created by a statute or by the Constitution. It cannot be issued in cases of ministerial office or private office.

Summary of Different Types of Writ Jurisdiction

Sr. No Writ Meaning
1. Habeas Corpus To have the body of
2. Mandamus We command
3. Prohibition To forbid
4. Certiorari To transfer a case or squash an order
5. Quo Warranto By what authority or warrant


Reference Books for IAS

GS Solved Papers
General Studies Manual
Manorama Year Book
Oxford Student Atlas
Science and Technology

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India's Struggle for Independence
Brief History of Modern India
Indian Art and Culture
Certificate Course in Geography

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