Legal Maxim

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Literal Meaning

To forbid or to stop. It is popularly known as ‘Stay Order’.


A writ of prohibition is issued primarily by a superior court to prevent an inferior court or tribunal from exceeding its jurisdiction in cases pending before it or acting contrary to the rules of natural justice. It is issued to inferior courts from usurping a jurisdiction with which it was not legally vested. In other words, the writ compels the inferior courts to keep within the limits of their jurisdiction.

The Writ of Prohibition is issued when a lower court or the body tries to transgress the limits or powers vested in it. It is issued by any High Court or the Supreme Court to any inferior court, or quasi-judicial body prohibiting the latter from continuing the proceedings in a particular case, where it has no jurisdiction to try. It is an extraordinary writ of preventive nature that prevents courts, tribunal, quasi-judicial bodies, and other officers from exercising their power beyond their jurisdiction or exercising those powers that are not vested on them.

Case Laws

In Brij Khandelwal vs. India, the Delhi High Court refused to issue prohibition to the Central Government to prevent it from entering into an agreement with Sri Lanka regarding a boundary dispute. The decision was based on the principle that prohibition does not lie against government discharging executive functions and that prohibition is intended to control quasi-judicial and not executive, functions.

But this view is no longer tenable with the expansion of the concept of natural justice, and the emergence of the concept of fairness even in administrative functions, the rigidity about prohibition has also been relaxed. The writ can now be issued to anybody, irrespective of the nature of the function discharged by it if any of the grounds on which the writ is issued is present. Prohibition is now regarded as general remedies for the judicial control of both quasi-judicial and administrative decisions affecting rights.

In S. Govind Menon vs. Union of India, it was held that prohibition is not a continuation of the proceedings to be prohibited. Its object is on the contrary to arrest the inferior tribunal’s proceedings. It is a collateral matter progress essentially between the two tribunals, an inferior one and another superior one by which the latter, by virtue of its power of superintendence over the former, restrains it within its rightful competence. Its nature is held to depend upon the nature of proceeding to be prohibited.

In Calcutta Discount Co. Ltd. Vs. ITO, Supreme Court held that when a subordinate court or tribunal is shown decisively that they have acted in excess of their jurisdiction, the court will issue a writ of prohibition regardless of whether there exists an alternative remedy or not.

In the case of Mannusamappa and Sons vs. Custodian Evacuee Property, the custodian, after accepting the petitioners as tenants of the evacuee property and after accepting rent for five months, purported to proceed against them as if they were in permissive possession. Prohibition was issued to forbid him from proceeding further.