Mere existence of alternative remedy does not create a bar on High Court’s writ jurisdiction: SC

Supreme Court: In the case where the bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, JJ was called upon to decide whether the existence of an alternate remedy would create a bar on High Court’s writ jurisdiction, it held,

“The existence of an alternate remedy, whether adequate or not, does not alter the fundamentally discretionary nature of the High Court’s writ jurisdiction and therefore does not create an absolute legal bar on the exercise of the writ jurisdiction by a High Court.”

Explaining that the court added that courts had themselves imposed certain constraints on the exercise of their writ jurisdiction to ensure that the jurisdiction did not become an appellate mechanism for all disputes within a High Court’s territorial jurisdiction, the bench said,

“The intention behind this self-imposed rule is clear. If High Courts were to exercise their writ jurisdiction so widely as to regularly override statutory appellate procedures, they would themselves become inundated with a vast number of cases to the detriment of the litigants in those cases.”

This would also defeat the legislature’s intention in enacting statutory appeal mechanisms to ensure the speedy disposal of cases.

On the argument that if, by the self-imposed rule, the writ jurisdiction of High Courts is circumscribed by the existence of a suitable alternate remedy, whether constitutional, statutory, or contractual, then a High Court should not exercise its writ jurisdiction where such an alternate remedy exists, the bench said that it is a misconceived argument and that,

“The mere existence of alternate forums where the aggrieved party may secure relief does not create a legal bar on a High Court to exercise its writ jurisdiction. It is a factor to be taken into consideration by the High Court amongst several factors.”

[Maharashtra Chess Association v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 932, decided on 29.07.2019]

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