Writ of Quo Warranto in India

The term Quo Warranto means “by what authority or warrant”. It is a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority they have for exercising some right or power they claim to hold. It is a notice of demand, issued by a person, to the respondent claiming some delegated power, and filed with a court of competent jurisdiction.

In other words, the writ of Quo Warranto is issued by the court to inquire into the legality of claims of a person to a public office. A writ of Quo Warranto calls upon the holder of the office to show the court under what authority he holds the office. Purpose or objective of this writ is to prevent persons who has wrongfully usurped and office from continuing that office1.

The writ of Quo Warranto is unlike a petition or motion to show cause, because the onus is on the respondent, not on the demandant. Unlike other four writs such as Habeas Corpus, Mandamus, Prohibition and Certiorari a writ of Quo Warranto can be sought by any interesting party and it is not necessary by the aggrieved person.

In the proceedings for a writ of Quo Warranto the applicant does not seek to enforce any right of his as such nor does he complain of any non-performance of duty to him. The question here in a writ of Quo Warranto is the right of the non-applicant to hold the office and an order that is passed is an order ousting him from that office2.

An application for the writ of Quo Warranto, challenging the legality of an appointment to an office of a public nature is maintainable at the instance of any private person, although he is not personally aggrieved or interested in the matter3.

However, in order to claim a writ of Quo Warranto, the applicant must satisfy the court that, the office in question is a public office and is held by a usurper without legal authority and that, necessarily leads to the enquiry as to whether the appointment of the said alleged usurper has been made in accordance with the law or not4.

For the purpose a writ of Quo Warranto, a public office means an office in which the public have an interest. For example; an office of the Speaker of a Legislative Assembly is a public office and a writ of Quo Warranto can be issued against the Speaker to inquire by what authority he supported his claim to the office5.

Similarly, it was held that the office of the Advocate General is a public office and a writ of Quo Warranto, could be issued against the office of the Advocate General6. However, the writ of Quo Warranto will not lie in respect of an office of a private nature7.

The issue of a writ of Quo Warranto is discretionary in nature and the petitioner is not necessarily entitled to the issue of a writ. It is also necessary that, the office in respect of which a writ of Quo Warranto is moved must be of a substantive character, and the term “substantive character” mean an office independently entitled8.

  1. University of Mysore v. Govinda Rao, AIR 1965 SC 491 []
  2. GD Karkare v. TL Shevde, AIR 1952 Nag 330, 334 []
  3. G Venkateshwara Rao v. Government of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1966 SC 828 []
  4. University of Mysore v. Govinda Rao, AIR 1965 SC 491 []
  5. Anand Bihari v. Ram Sahay, AIR 1952 MB 31 []
  6. GD Karkare v. TL Shevde, AIR 1952 Nag 333 []
  7. R v. Mousley, (1846) 115 ER 1130, see also Jamalpur Arya Samaj v. Dr. D Ram, AIR 1954 Pat 297 []
  8. R v. Speyer, (1916) 1 KB 595 []

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