Applicability of Writ of Quo Warranto


An application for a Writ of Quo Warranto is sought when a person has usurped a ‘public office’. The writ seeks to question the holder of such office on "what authority" he/she does so.

A lawyer friend brought to my attention that the Constitution of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, after the enactment of the 19th Amendment as per CHAPTER XXII Article 170 clearly stipulates that a range of persons including (a) the President (b) Prime Minister (c) Speaker (d) Minister (e) Deputy Minister, do not come under the definition of a "public officer".

Flowing from this, inter alia categories (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) who hold "public office" are not deemed to be "public officers".

It stands to reason that a "public officer" holds "public office" unless that person is deemed not to do so. The Sri Lanka Constitution by unequivocally exempting in Article 170 inter alia categories (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) from the definition of "public officer", is in effect stating they do not hold "public office". Hence these categories do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Writ of Quo Warranto.

Additionally, there is case law from the Madras High Court, and possibly from other jurisdictions, that the Writ of Quo Warranto does not apply to those holding "public office" at "The pleasure" of an appointing authority -

"The pleasure of dismissing or removing a State Minister has to be that of the Governor and not that of the High Court. The High Court, therefore, cannot issue a writ of quo warranto for removing a Minister."


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