Definition of mandamus
From Latin mandāmus "we command"
mandamus (plural mandamuses)
- (law) A prerogative writ in the common law that compels a court or government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.
A writ of mandamus or mandamus (which means "we command" in Latin), or sometimes mandate, is the name of one of the prerogative writs in the common law, and is "issued by a superior court to compel a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly".
Mandamus is a judicial remedy which is in the form of an order from a superior court to any government, subordinate court, corporation or public authority to do or forbear from doing some specific act which that body is obliged under law to do or refrain from doing, as the case may be, and which is in the nature of public duty and in certain cases of a statutory duty. It cannot be issued to compel an authority to do something against statutory provision.
Mandamus may be a command to do an administrative action or not to take a particular action, and it is supplemented by legal rights. It must be a judicially enforceable and legally protected right before one suffering a grievance can ask for a mandamus. A person can be said to be aggrieved only when he is denied a legal right by someone who has a legal duty to do something and abstains from doing it.
The applicant pleading for the writ of mandamus to be enforced should be able to show that he has a legal right to compel the respondent to do or refrain from doing the specific act. The duty sought to be enforced must have two qualities: It must be a duty of public nature and the duty must be imperative and should not be discretionary.
Normally, a writ of mandamus does not issue to, or an order in the nature of mandamus is not made against, the private individual. It is not necessary that the person or the authority on whom the statutory duty is imposed be a public official or an official body. A mandamus can issue, for instance, to an official of a society to compel him to carry out the terms of the statute by which the society is constituted or governed and also to companies or corporations to carry out duties placed on them by statutes. A mandamus would be equally applicable for a company constituted by a statute for the purposes of fulfilling public responsibilities. The court to which the application for the issue of mandamus is made will not constitute itself a court of appeal from the decision of the administrative authority and will not examine the correctness or otherwise of a decision on merits. The exercise of administrative discretion is not interfered upon by the court, but it will do so if there has been an illegal exercise of the discretion. There is an illegal exercise of discretion where:
- The order is made without, or in excess of, jurisdiction
- The order is made in bad faith, or
- The authority is influenced by extraneous consideration.
- Bryan A Garner, Black's Law Dictionary, p. 980, 8th Ed., St. Paul, USA, 2004.
- A.T. Markose: Judicial Control of Administrative Action in India, p.364.
- RK Choudhary's Law of Writs; Mandamus.
- Vice-chancellor, Utkal University v. SK Ghosh, AIR 1954 SC 217: 1954 SCR 883.
- Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.