Writ Jurisdiction of High Courts

While the powers the High Court may exercise under its Writ Jurisdiction are not subject to strict legal principles, two clear principles emerge with respect to when a High Court’s Writ Jurisdiction may be engaged. First, the decision of the High Court to entertain or not entertain a particular action under its Writ Jurisdiction is fundamentally discretionary. Secondly, limitations placed on the Court’s decision to exercise or refuse to exercise its Writ Jurisdiction are self-imposed. It is a well settled principle that the Writ Jurisdiction of a High Court cannot be completely excluded by statute. If a High Court is tasked with being the final recourse to upholding the rule of law within its territorial jurisdiction, it must necessarily have the power to examine any case before it and make a determination of whether or not its Writ Jurisdiction is engaged.

The existence of an alternate remedy, whether adequate or not, does not alter the fundamentally discretionary nature of the High Court’s Writ Jurisdiction and therefore does not create an absolute legal bar on the exercise of the Writ Jurisdiction by a High Court. The decision whether or not to entertain an action under its Writ Jurisdiction remains a decision to be taken by the High Court on an examination of the facts and circumstances of a particular case. The mere existence of alternate forums where the aggrieved party may secure relief does not create a legal bar on a High Court to exercise its Writ Jurisdiction. It is a factor to be taken into consideration by the High Court amongst several factors.”

Hon’ble Justice Dr. D.Y. Chandrachud, Maharashtra Chess Association v. Union of India, [Civil Appeal No. 5654 of 2019].