Mandamus is a judicial remedy which is in the form of an order from a superior court to any government, subordinate court, corporation or public authority to do or forbear from doing some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do or refrain from doing, as the case may be, and which is in the nature of public duty and in certain cases of a statutory duty. It cannot be issued to compel an authority to do something against statutory provision.
Mandamus may be a command to do something or not to do a particular thing. Mandamus is supplemented by legal rights. It must be a judicially enforceable and legally protected right before one suffering a grievance can ask for a mandamus. A person can be said to be aggrieved only when he is denied a legal right by someone who has a legal duty to do something and abstains from doing it.
Normally, a writ of mandamus does not issue to, or an order in the nature of mandamus is not made against, the private individual. It is not necessary that the person or the authority on whom the statutory duty is imposed be a public official or an official body. A mandamus can issue, for instance, to an official of a society to compel him to carry out the terms of the statute under or by which the society is constituted or governed and also to companies or corporations to carry out duties placed on them by the statutes authorizing their undertakings. A mandamus would be equally applicable for a company constituted by a statute for the purposes of fulfilling public responsibilities. The court to which the application for the issue of mandamus is made will not constitute itself a court of appeal from the decision of the administrative authority and will not examine the correctness or otherwise of a decision on merits. The exercise of administrative discretion is not interfered upon by the court, but it will do so if there has been an illegal exercise of the discretion. There is an illegal exercise of discretion where:
Mandamus, being a discretionary remedy, the application for that must be made in good faith and not for indirect purposes. Acquiescence cannot, however, bar the issue of mandamus. The petitioner must, of course, satisfy the Court that he has the legal right to the performance of the legal duty as distinct from mere discretion of authority.
A mandamus is normally issued when an officer or an authority by compulsion of statute is required to perform a duty and which despite demand in writing has not been performed. In no other case will a writ of mandamus issue unless it be to quash an illegal order.
The writ petition is not maintainable when a remedy provided for under the Code of Civil Procedure is available. For example, the High Court cannot entertain writ petitions for mandamus to the Government who fails to deposit and pay in the requisite time an enhanced compensation account as ordered by a lower Court. The petitioners in this case would be directed to approach the executing Court for appropriate relief.
Supreme Court and High Courts are only empowered to exercise Writ Jurisdiction, under Art. 32 and 226 of Constitution. No other courts are empowered to issue writ.
In the context of mandamus from a United States Court of Appeals to a United States District Court, the Supreme Court has ruled that the appellate courts have discretion to issue mandamus to control an abuse of discretion by the lower court in unusual circumstances, where there is a compelling reason not to wait for an appeal from a final judgment. This discretion is exercised very sparingly. It is exercised with somewhat greater frequency, although still sparingly, in the context of discovery disputes involving privileged materials, since a district court order erroneously forcing the disclosure of privileged material may never be remediable through a later appeal.
The authority of the United States district courts to issue mandamus has been expressly abrogated by Rule 81(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, but relief in the nature of mandamus can be had by other remedies provided for in the Rules, where provided by statute, or by use of the District Court's equitable powers.
In some U.S. states, including California, the writ is now called mandate instead of mandamus, and may be issued by any level of the state court system to any lower court or to any government official. It is still common for Californians to bring "taxpayer actions" against public officials for wasting public funds through mismanagement of a government agency, where the relief sought is a writ of mandate compelling the official to stop wasting money and fulfill his duty to protect the public fisc. In Virginia, the Supreme Court has "original jurisdiction" under the state constitution for mandamus involving the Virginia courts.
Other states, including New York, have replaced mandamus (as well as the other prerogative writs) with statutory procedures. In New York, this is known as an Article 78 review after the civil procedure law provision that created the statutory.
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