Cannot ordinarily restrain officials from performing statutory functions, says HC

A writ of mandamus should not be ordinarily issued if it indirectly restrains an authority from performing or exercising his/her statutory function and such power of the court can be exercised only in exceptional circumstances, the Madras High Court has ruled.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh held so while dismissing a writ petition filed by D. Aswin Rao, a co-accused who had been arrested in a Rs.45 crore cheating case, to restrain the Greater Chennai Commissioner of Police from detaining him under the Goondas Act.

The judge agreed with Additional Public Prosecutor M. Mohamed Riyaz that the petitioner had rushed to the court apprehending that the police might invoke the preventive detention law against him, and such apprehension alone would not suffice for the court to act.

After referring to several Supreme Court judgments on the issue, the judge said the petitioner was apprehensive of being detained under the Goondas Act since such action had already been taken by the police against the prime accused in the case.

“This ground is too far-fetched for this court to exercise its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution. There is absolutely no overt act that is available for this court to even prima facie satisfy itself that there is a potential threat to the violation of Article 21 (Right to life and liberty).

“This court must keep in mind that a writ of mandamus should not be issued where it indirectly restrains an authority from performing or exercising their statutory function. This court must perform a balancing act in cases of this nature and interfering at a pre-detention stage must be far and few, depending on the exigencies in a given case,” the judge observed.

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