Can Courts issue mandamus to frame policy? Read this short explainer by the Supreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Justice AM Khanwilkar, Indu Malhotra and Ajay Rastogi*, JJ has held that the Courts cannot issue mandamus to frame policy.

The Court was hearing the case where the last attemptees of the UPSC Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination, 2020 had sought an extra attempt to clear the exam in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Also read: COVID 19 a “lame excuse”: Here’s why SC refused to allow extra attempt for UPSC CSE to last attemptees

It was argued before the Court that there is always a change in the upper age limit and number of attempts in different spell and that in the year 2015, the Union of India allowed one more attempt in the Civil Service Examination 2015 for the candidates who appeared in CSE 2011.

However, as pointed out by the Union of India, there was a substantial change in the pattern of Civil Service (Preliminary) Examination 2011, in the given circumstances, it was considered appropriate to grant one more attempt in Civil Service Examination, 2015 to such candidates who appeared in Civil Service Examination, 2011 either due to reaching upper age limit or due to exhausting of number of attempts.

The Court, however, noticed that the said instance cannot be made to be the basis or a foundation for the petitioners to site as a precedent in claiming to seek one additional attempt as a matter of right which is not permissible under the scheme of Rules 2020 or with the aid of Article 14 of the Constitution to take a call in meeting out the difficulties which have been faced as alleged in the given circumstance.

“Judicial review of a policy decision and to issue mandamus to frame policy in a particular manner are absolutely different.”

It is within the realm of the executive to take a policy decision based on the prevailing circumstances for better administration and in meeting out the exigencies but at the same time, it is not within the domain of the Courts to legislate. The Courts do interpret the laws and in such an interpretation, certain creative process is involved. The Courts have the jurisdiction to declare the law as unconstitutional. That too, where it is called for.  The Court is called upon to consider the validity of a policy decision only when a challenge is made that such policy decision infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution or any other statutory right.

“Merely because as a matter of policy, if the 1st respondent has granted relaxation in the past for  the reason that there was  a change in the examination pattern/syllabus and in the given situation, had considered to be an impediment for the participant in the Civil Service Examination, no assistance can be claimed by the petitioners in seeking mandamus to the 1st respondent to come out with a policy granting relaxation to the participants who had availed a final and last attempt or have crossed the upper age by appearing in the Examination 2020 as a matter of right.”

[Rachna v. Union of India, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 140, decided on 24.02.2021]


*Judgment by: Justice Ajay Rastogi

Appearances in the matter by

For petitioners: Senior Advocate Shyam Divan,  

For Respondents: Additional Solicitor General S.V.   Raju and advocate Naresh Kaushik

For intervenors: Senior Advocates P.V. Narasimha and Pallav Shishodia

https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2021/02/24/covid-19-a-lame-excuse-to-take-extra-attempt-to-clear-civil-service-examination-heres-why-sc-refused-to-allow-extra-attempt-for-upse-cse-to-last-attemptees/

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