A legal document in which the individual swears under oath before a notary or someone authorized to take oaths that the statements made in the document are true.

Ab Initio

Ab Initio is a Latin phrase that translates to “from the start”.

Advisory Opinion

This is a nonbinding interpretation of law given by the Court on a question of law or fact that is of public importance and referred to the Court by the President of India.


A legal proceeding by which a case is brought before a higher court for review of the decision of a lower court.


A postponement of proceedings for a period of time.

Amicus Curiae

Amicus Curiae or “Friend of the Court” refers to a person that is not a party to a particular litigation but that is permitted by the court to advise it in respect to some matter of law that directly affects the case in question


An appellate Court is said to have affirmed a decision when it agrees with the verdict of the lower court.


Bona Fide

The latin term for “in good faith”, it is used to signify the honesty and absence of any fraudulent element in claims made by a party.


Concurring Judgment

When one or more judges agree with the majority judgment but wish to write separate reasons for why they agree, they are said to write a concurring judgment.

Constitution Bench

A bench of the Supreme Court consisting of five or more judges. The term originates from Article 145(3) of the Constitution which states that “any case involving a substantial question of law as to the interpretation of [the] Constitution” must be decided by a bench of a minimum of five judges.


A writ of superior court to call up the records of an inferior court or a body acting in a quasi-judicial capacity.


Dissenting Judgment

When one or more judges disagree with the majority judgment, they may record their reasons for their disagreement. A dissenting judgment cannot be enforced.


Ex parte

Ex Parte proceedings refer to hearings or orders granted on the request of and for the benefit of one party only in the absence of the other party


Habeas Corpus

A writ of Habeas Corpus is used by the courts to find out if a person has been illegally detained. If a person has been illegally detained, a writ of Habeas Corpus can be filed. Habeas Corpus is Latin for ‘Let us have the body’ (in this context – let us see the person who has been illegally detained). Through Habeas Corpus, the court can thus also summon the person detained or imprisoned to the court. This writ petition can be issued against a public authority or any particular individual.


Interim Order

A temporary order of the Court that remains in force until the next hearing, the performance of an act by one or both parties, or a final order of the Court.

Intra Vires

An act is said to be intra vires when it is performed by a competent authority within the scope of its power.


A non-party to a case that is allowed to be brought on record by the Court at its discretion without the permission of the parties to the litigation.


The act of bringing a third party to a litigation who may be liable to the petitioner or is likely to be directly effected by the outcome of the case at hand.


Locus Standi

Latin for “place to stand”. It means the right of a party to bring forth an action, to be heard by the Court, or the right to address the Court.



A writ of Mandamus is issued by a higher court to a lower court, tribunal or a public authority to perform an act which such a lower court is bound to perform. If a public official is not performing his duty, the court can order it or him/her to do that. Mandamus is Latin for ‘we command’. It can be issued against anyone, including the president or governor of the state, a private person or chief justice. Any individual or a private body who has a stake in the issue can file a writ petition of mandamus.

Mala Fide

Mala fide a Latin phrase which translates to “in bad faith”. It is used to signify intention to deceive.

Majority judgment

The opinion of the numerical majority of the judges in a case is known as a majority judgment. This judgment becomes part of the law of India.



A formal letter given to a party to respond to the arguments made against them or petition/appeal filed against them.


Obiter dictum

Obiter dictum is a Latin phrase which translates to “that which is said in passing”. Obiter dictum is a part of the judgment where the judge makes an observation or passes general remarks: this cannot be effectively relied on as precedent.



A person files a petition in the Court. For example, in Subramanian Swamy v Union of India, Mr. Subramanian Swamy was the Petitioner.


A writ of prohibition or a ‘stay order’ is issued to a lower court or a body to stop it from acting beyond its powers.

Per Incuriam

Per incuriam is a Latin phrase which translates to “lack of due care”. It is used to describe the decision of a court when it ignored or failed to apply an established precedent.


Quo Warranto

The writ of Quo Warranto (Latin for ‘by what warrant’) is issued to inquire about the legality of a claim by a person or authority to act in a public office which he or she may not be entitled to. The writ is only for public offices and does not include private institutions/offices.



All parties to a case who are not the petitioner are referred to as Respondents. It is important to note that Respondents are not necessarily opposed to the Petitioner(s). For instance, in Subramanian Swamy v Union of India, various free speech organisations were listed as Respondents even though they supported the Petitioner in the case.

Review Petition

A Review Petition is a means for aggrieved parties to have the same Bench revisit their judgment in a case. There are three grounds for review: (i) obvious error, (ii) violation of natural justice, (iii) miscarriage of justice (e.g. not considering pertinent facts).


The revocation of a statute by the enactment of a new law by the legislature.

Res Judicata

An issue finally decided on its merits by a court having competent jurisdiction can not be subject to litigation again between the same parties on the same facts.


The act of a Judge to remove or excuse themselves from hearing a particular case owing to conflict of interest.


Special Leave Petition

A Special Leave Petition is an extraordinary power granted to the Supreme Court of India under Article 136 of the Constitution. This Article grants the Court the power to hear an appeal against any order passed by any court in any part of India. The vast majority of the cases before the Supreme Court are Special Leave Petitions.

Suo motu

Suo motu means “on its on motion” in Latin. When the Court takes up a Suo Motu Petition, it takes the unusual step of taking up a case, even though no party has filed a relevant petition.


Ultra Vires

An act is said to be ultra vires when it is performed by a competent authority beyond the scope of its power and contrary to the Constitution.



A writ is a formal written order issued by a Court. Any warrant, orders, directions, and so on, issued by the Supreme Court or the High court are called writs. A writ petition can be filed in the High Court (Article 226) or the Supreme Court (Article 32) of India when any of your fundamental rights are violated. The jurisdiction of the High Courts (Article 226) in issuing a writ is wider than the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can issue writs only in relation to the violation of a fundamental right. There are five kinds of writs: quo warranto, habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition and certiorari.