What is Exhaustion of Statutory/Legal Remedies?

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June 04, 2019

The Legal Doctrine of Exhaustion of Remedies refers to a situation where on availability of an adequate and alternative legal/statutory remedy the Court refuses to exercise it’s writ jurisdiction.

Through catena of cases, the Indian Judiciary has now established that High Court would not exercise it’s jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution when an alternate, adequate and efficacious remedy is available and the Petitioner has not availed the same before coming to the High Court.

Does the Doctrine apply to the enforcement of Fundamental Rights?

The aforesaid consideration has been a contentious issue. However, the Supreme Court in plethora of judgments has reiterated that mere existence of alternative legal remedy is not a good and sufficient ground for it to throw out a petition for enforcement of a Fundamental Right. Thus, an alternative remedy is not a bar to move a writ petition in the High Court to enforce a Fundamental Right[1].

Circumstances in which alternative legal remedy is not a bar to enforcement of Fundamental Rights?

The judicial dictum has enumerated situations and circumstances wherein an alternative legal remedy is not a bar or enforcement of Fundamental rights through writ jurisdiction of the Courts. Some of such cases are delineated below:

For instance alternative remedy would not be a bar if it involves inordinate delay[2]. Similarly, the High Court would issue a writ of certiorari even without exhaustion of alternative remedy in case if denial of natural justice[3].

The Supreme Court in the case of State of Orissa v. Gokulnanda Jena[4] had held that writ petition against administrative orders under Article 226 are maintainable subject to rules of exhaustion of remedies. It has also been several times reiterated that when a remedy under Article 226 is available the Supreme Court would not normally entertain a petition under Article 32[5].


[1] Mohd. Yasin v. Town Area Committee, AIR 1952 SC 115

[2] Bhagirath Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1965 Punj 170

[3] Venkateswaran v. Wadhwani, AIR 1961 SC 1506

[4] (2003)6 SCC 465

[5] Avinash Chand Gupta v. State of U.P., (2004)2 SCC 726