Certiorari

The limits of the jurisdiction of High Courts in issuing a writ of certiorari:

The Supreme Court observed that —

“The question about the limits of the jurisdiction of High Courts in issuing a writ of certiorari under Art.226 has been frequently considered by this court and the true legal position in that behalf is no longer in doubt.

A writ of certiorari can be issued for correcting errors of jurisdiction committed by inferior courts or tribunals; these are cases where orders are passed by inferior courts or tribunals without jurisdiction; or is in excess of it, or as a result of failure to exercise jurisdiction.

A writ can similarly be issued where in exercise of jurisdiction conferred on it, the Court or Tribunal acts illegally or improperly, as for instance, it decides a question without giving an opportunity to be heard to the party affected by the order; or where the procedure adopted in dealing with the dispute is opposed to principles of natural justice. There is, however, no doubt that the jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari is a supervisory jurisdiction and the Court exercising it is not entitled to act as an appellate Court. This limitation necessarily means that the findings of fact reached by the inferior Court or Tribunal as a result of the appreciation of evidence cannot be reopened or questioned in writ proceedings.

An error of law which is apparent on the fact of the record can be corrected by a writ, but not an error of fact, however grave it may appear to be. In regard to a finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal, a writ of certiorari can be issued if it is shown that in admissible and material evidence, or had erroneously admitted inadmissible evidence which has influenced the impugned finding.

Similarly, if a finding of fact is based on no evidence that would be regarded as an error of law which can be corrected by a writ of certiorari. In dealing with this category of cases, however, we must always bear in mind that a finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal cannot be challenged in proceedings for a writ of certiorari on the ground that the relevant and material evidence adduced before the Tribunal was insufficient or in adequate to sustain the impugned findings. The adequacy or sufficiency of evidence led on a point and the interference of fact to be drawn from the said finding are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Tribunal, and the said points cannot be against before a writ Court. It is within the limits that the jurisdiction conferred on the High Courts under Art.226 to issue a writ of certiorari can be legitimately exercised.

It is, of course, not easy to define or adequately describe what an error of law apparent on the face of the record means. What can be corrected by a writ has to be an error of law; but it must be such an error of law as can be regarded as one which is apparent on the face of the record. Where it is manifest or clear that the conclusion of law recorded by an inferior Court or Tribunal is based on an obvious misinterpretation of the relevant statutory provision, or sometimes in ignorance of it, or may be, even in disregard of it, or is expressly founded on reasons which are wrong in law, the said conclusion can be corrected by a writ of certiorari.

In all these cases, the impugned conclusion should be so plainly inconsistent with the relevant statutory provision that no difficulty is experienced by the High Court in holding that the said error of law is apparent on the face of record.

It may also be that in some cases, the impugned error of law may not be obvious or patent on the fact of the record as such and the Court may need an argument to discover the said error; but there can be no doubt that what can be corrected by a writ of certiorari is an error of law and the said error must, on the whole, be of such a character as would satisfy the provision reasonably capable of two constructions and one construction has been adopted by the inferior Court or Tribunal, its conclusion may not necessarily or always be open to correction by a writ of certiorari. In our opinion, it is neither possible nor desirable to attempt either to define or to describe adequately all cases of errors which can be appropriately described as errors of law apparent on the fact of the record. Whether or not an impugned error is an error of law and an error of law which is apparent on the face of the record, must always depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case and upon the nature and scope of the legal provision which is alleged to have been misconstrued or contravened.”

(Excerpts from the case reported in Syed Yakoob v. Radhakrishnan, AIR 1964 SC 477)

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