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In the constitutional setup, the High Court as well as the Supreme Court of India is the guardian of the Constitution. These two courts have the power to scrutinize the vires of any legislation. This judicial scrutiny of legislation done by way of Writ Jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court under Art 226 and on the Supreme Court under Art 32 of the Constitution. In the matter of entertaining any writ petition which seeks to challenge the constitutional validity of a legislation, certain conditions have to be fulfilled. This write-up seeks to briefly discuss one such condition.

Can a Writ Petition be maintainable without any Cause of Action?

Like any civil case, cause of action is a must for bringing a Writ Petition. Unfortunately, “Cause of Action” is not defined in any statute, it can be understood from the ratio of different cases. In nutshell, it is the bundle of facts which the party has to plead and prove to establish that he has the right to sue. The same principle is applicable in Writ Petitions. Thus a given fact situation must exist which entitles the petitioner to enter the court for seeking redressal.

Can the passing of a legislation confer any cause of action to challenge it?

In the Constitutional setup, legislature (both Parliament as well as State Legislatures) has been given powers to enact laws within the sphere of their respective jurisdictions. If a legislation has been validly enacted, no cause of action accrues to anybody to challenge the vires of it. Legislation is the plenary power of the Legislature. Nobody has any right to challenge the wisdom of the Legislature in making the law.

When the cause of action does accrue to file a Writ Petition challenging constitutional validity of a legislation?

The following facts need to be established before one writ challenging the constitutional validity of a legislation may be maintainable:

1. In pursuance of the legislation, the appropriate authority has undertaken any act authorized by the legislation;

2. Because of such act, the petitioner has met with some civil consequences or the petitioner has suffered deprivation of his Fundamental Rights (in case of Art 32 Petition) or his other constitutional rights (in case of Art 226 Petition;

3. Only in such situation, the petitioner can challenge the constitutional validity of the enactment in order to get the appropriate remedy.

Can the Court entertain a Writ Petition only for the challenge of the legislation?

No. There is always presumption over constitutionality of a statute duly passed by the appropriate legislature. In case, due to implementation of any legislation, certain constitutional rights are violated, then only the writ may lie. Without any fact situation, just because of apprehension of a civil consequence, no writ petition can be maintainable.

Which High Court has the jurisdiction to entertain the Writ?

The jurisdiction of High Court to entertain any Writ Petition challenging constitutional validity of a legislation is grounded on the place of accrual of the cause of action. The seat of legislation (i.e the place of Parliament or State Legislature) is irrelevant. In deciding the case, any High Court has jurisdiction to scrutinize the constitutionality of any legislation- central as well as state.  

Case Reference:

1. Sant Lal Bharti Vs State of Punjab (1988) 1 SCC 366;

2. M/s Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd Vs Union of India (2004) 6 SCC 254.

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Category Constitutional Law, Other Articles by - Anupam Lahiri 


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