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Article 226 of the COI

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Source: Supreme Court

Why in News?

Recently, the Supreme Court in the matter of Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. & Ors. v. Mb Power (Madhya Pradesh) Limited & Ors., has held that under the provisions of Article 226 of the Constitution of India, 1950 (COI), the High Court must exercise its discretionary power with great caution.

What was the Background of Jaipur Vidyut Vitran Nigam Ltd. & Ors. v. Mb Power (Madhya Pradesh) Limited & Ors. Case?

  • In this case, the respondent - Mb Power (Madhya Pradesh) Limited submitted the bid to supply electricity at the tariff of Rs. 5.517 per unit, to the appellant, and the respondent was able to find a place in the top seven bidders.
  • The appellant decided not to purchase the electricity from the respondent.
  • The Respondent approached the Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan, Bench at Jaipur under Article 226 of the COI directing the appellants to immediately issue a Letter of Intent in favour of the respondent and immediately commence supply of power.
  • Allowing the writ petition, High Court held that the appellants and the State of Rajasthan are bound to purchase a total of 906 MW of electricity from the successful bidders.
  • Thereafter, the present appeal has been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the judgment and order passed by the High Court.

What were the Court’s Observations?

  • The Division Bench comprising of Justices B.R. Gavai and Prashant Kumar Mishra observed that the High Court must exercise its discretionary power under Article 226 of the COI with great caution and should exercise it only in furtherance of public interest and not merely on the making out of a legal point. The court should always keep the larger public interest in mind in order to decide whether its intervention is called for or not. Only when it comes to a conclusion that overwhelming public interest requires interference, the court should intervene.
  • The Court further states that the High Court erred while entertaining a Writ Petition in the instant case.

What is Article 226 of the COI?


  • Article 226 is enshrined under Part V of the Constitution which puts power in the hands of the High Court to issue the writs.
  • Article 226(1) of the COI states that every High Court shall have powers to issue orders or writs including habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto, and certiorari, to any person or any government for the enforcement of fundamental rights and other purpose.
  • Article 226(2) states that the High Court has the power to issue writs or orders to any person, government, or authority -
    • Located within its jurisdiction or
    • Outside its local jurisdiction if the circumstances of the cause of action arises either wholly or partly within its territorial jurisdiction.
  • Article 226(3) states that when an interim order is passed by a High Court by way of injunction, stay, or by other means against a party then that party may apply to the court for the vacation of such an order and such an application should be disposed of by the court within the period of two weeks.
  • Article 226(4) says that the power granted by this article to a high court should not diminish the authority granted to the Supreme Court by Clause (2) of Article 32.
  • This Article can be issued against any person or authority, including the government.
  • This is merely a constitutional right and not a fundamental right and cannot be suspended even during an emergency.
  • Article 226 is of mandatory nature in case of fundamental rights and discretionary nature when it is issued for “any other purpose”.
  • It enforces not only fundamental rights, but also other legal rights.

Writs available under Article 226:

  • Writ of Habeas Corpus:
    • It is a Latin phrase which means ‘to have a body or to produce a body’.
    • This is the most often used writ.
    • When a person is wrongfully held by the government, that person, or his family or friends, can file a writ of Habeas Corpus to have that person released.
  • Writ of Mandamus:
    • It is a Latin phrase that translates to ‘we command.’
    • Mandamus is a judicial command issued to perform public duty.
    • The only requirement for using this writ is that there should be a mandatory public duty.
  • Writ of Certiorari:
    • It is a Latin phrase that means ‘to be informed.’
    • It is a command or order issued by the Higher Court to the inferior court.
    • It is issued when the inferior courts violate the principles of natural justice.
    • The Superior Court can quash the order given by the inferior court, if it finds any error.
  • Writ of prohibition:
    • It simply means ‘to stop’.
    • This writ is issued against the inferior court (i.e., subordinate courts, tribunals, quasi-judicial bodies) by the Higher Courts.
  • Writ of Quo warranto:
    • The term Quo warranto means ‘by what authority’.
    • It is issued against a private person by what authority he is holding the office on which he has no right.
    • By this writ, the Court can control the public official appointment, and protect a citizen from being deprived of a public office to which he may be entitled.

Case Laws

  • In Bandhua Mukti Morcha v. the Union of India (1984), the Supreme Court held that Article 226 has a much broader scope than Article 32 as Article 226 can be issued to safeguard legal rights as well.
  • In Common Cause v. Union of India (2018), the Supreme Court held that the writ under Article 226 can also be issued for the enforcement of public responsibilities by public authorities.