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Report No. 79

II. Writs: Nature and Volume

16.3. Writs.-

The most important species of extraordinary original civil jurisdiction of the High Courts that has assumed importance in recent times is the jurisdiction to issue "writs". Before 1950, the power to issue a writ as such was vested only in the three High Courts for the three presidency towns-though there were certain statutory provisions conferring on other High Courts the power to grant substantially similar relief. After 1950, under Article 226 of the Constitution,1 power has been expressly conferred on all High Courts to issue, inter alia, directions in the nature of writs for the specified purposes. We are here concerned not with the details of the purposes for which writs can be issued, but with the breadth of the jurisdiction.

1. Para. 16.4, infra.

16.4. Scope of writs.-

With the increase in the socio-economic and welfare activities of the State and the growing awareness of the citizen as to his rights, Article 226 of the Constitution assumed singular importance in our system of administration of justice. It empowers every High Court, 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, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari or any one of them for the purpose mentioned in that Article. With the passage of time, the institution of writs has been on the increase. The relevant Appendix1 to this Report shows that the pendency of writs has substantially increased.

Taking an all-India view, the total number of writs pending in all the High Courts as on December 31, 1977, was 134639, as against 122009 pending on 1st January, 1977. There is, thus, an increase of 12630, representing a 10.35 per cent. increase in 1977 over the previous year. The existing strength of judges of the High Courts is obviously not sufficient to clear the backlog and at the same time to deal satisfactorily with the increasing institution. This shows the imperative need for the appointment of additional and ad hoc, judges to tackle the problem-a matter which we have already dealt with2 Here we confine ourselves to the ways and means that may be adopted to expedite the disposal of writ petitions. What we propose to indicate will be a general pattern.

1. Appendix relating to figures of institution etc., Table IV.

2. Chapter 3, infra.

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