DOCTRINE OF STARE DECISIS- AN APPRAISAL

INTRODUCTION

The maxim explains the doctrine of stare decisis. When court settles an issue, a conflict or a controversy between parties it becomes the law on those issues and conflicts. Such a decision is a precedent. A precedent is a statement of law found in decision of the superior court. Such decisions are binding to that court and the inferior courts have to follow. The cases based on similar set of facts decided by a court may arise in any future case. Following previous decisions in similar future cases, the court may save time and avoid conflicting decisions, bringing uniformity to law. The court settles a question of law or of fact, it is best to stand by that decision while adjudicating similar cases in the future. Before deciding a case, the Judges look into previously decided cases of similar nature by their own court or by superior courts. They shall apply them on the facts or case before them and decide accordingly.

In Indian legal system, the judges take guidance from previous decisions on the point, and rely upon them. The decisions of Apex Court and High courts are compiled and published in reports. These reports are considered to be valuable from the legal literature perspective. Those decisions are very efficient in deciding cases of subsequent cases of similar nature. They are called as Judicial Precedents. A decision is an authority for what it decides.

The ratio in the decision is its essence. The reason and principles on which a court decides a case forms a precedent. A Judicial decision has a binding force for subsequent cases. However, the whole Judgment is not binding in future cases.

Origin of Precedent

A Precedent originates from the doctrine of stare decisis. Stare decisis means to abide by the decisions. The doctrine of stare decisis brings certainty and conformity to the decisions of the court and to law. precedent is a statement of law found in the decision of a superior Court, which decision has to be followed by that court and by the courts which are inferior to it. Precedent is a previous decision upon which the judges have to follow the past decisions carefully in the cases before them as a guide for all present or future decisions. In other words, ‘Judicial Precedent’ means a judgment of a Court of law cited as an authority for deciding a similar set of facts, a case which serves as authority for the legal principle embodied in its decision. A judicial precedent is a decision of the Court used as a source for future decision making.

According to Salmond

In loose sense it includes merely reported case law which may be cited and followed by courts. In strict sense, that case law which not only has great binding authority but must also be followed. In all precedents are authority of past decisions for future cases. It must be reported, cited and followed by courts.

Object

The main object of doctrine of precedent is that the law of the land should be clear, certain & consistent so that the Courts shall follow it without any hesitation. In Union of India Vs. Raghubir Singh[1] it has been held “The doctrine of binding precedent has the merit of promoting a certainty and consistency in judicial decisions, and enables an organic development of the law, besides providing assurance to the individual as to the consequence of transactions forming part of daily affairs. And, therefore, the need for a clear and consistent enunciation of legal principle in the decisions of a Court.”[2]

LEGAL ASPECT- INDIA

According to Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, any legislation issued by the Supreme Court is obligatory on all courts within India’s jurisdiction. Only the ratio decendi of a case, not the obiter dictum or the bare facts of the cases, is binding, according to Article 141. As a result, in order for other courts to implement S.C.’s ruling they must first comprehend the true concept established by the preceding case.

Some basic concepts of article 141

  1. The Supreme Court’s ruling must be followed by other Indian courts by law.
  2. First, the decision must be read in its entirety, and then the conclusions drawn from the ruling must be evaluated in light of the issues before the court. Only if a decision is based on determining or resolving a legal matter may it be used as precedent.

Only if a decision is based on determining or resolving a legal matter may it be used as a precedent.

1. When a court is divided in determining a matter, the result reached by the majority of judges will be cited as a precedent, rather than the one reached by the minority of judges.

2. S.C.’s ex parte judgements are likewise enforceable and can be utilised as precedents.

3. The decision of S.C. does not bind it.

The binding character of a decision is not affected by procedural irregularities or immateriality. Petitions for special leave are legally binding.[3]

OBSERVATIONS MADE BY SUPREME COURT

This principle, known as the law of precedents in everyday language, occurs in Common Law nations. In the lack of codified rules, England developed the notion of law of precedents, which was eventually incorporated in Indian law. According to Section 212 of the Government of India Act, 1935, any legislation declared by the federal court and any judgement of the Privy Council should be regarded as obligatory and followed by all courts in British India, as far as applicable. Article 141 was incorporated into the Indian Constitution by the legislators.

In light of the foregoing, it’s worth noting that a Supreme Court decision isn’t necessarily final. Only the ratio decidendi portion of the decision is binding and must be considered when considering legal disputes involving identical issues and circumstances. The theory of law of precedents has various exceptions, such as consent orders, obiter dicta, per-incuriam judgments, and sub silentio orders.

We frequently come across Supreme Court decisions that state that the case was resolved on unique facts and circumstances and that it should not be considered precedent. In this situation, one would wonder if the Court has the authority or discretion to make such a remark in the lack of any source or unambiguous statute authorising it to do so.

The central question for the purposes of this article is whether a Supreme Court ruling may be used as a precedent notwithstanding the fact that the Court has said that it should not be used as a precedent. Second, if Article 141 also empowers the Supreme Court to rule that a decision has no precedential value even though all of the facts, circumstances, and legal issues in another case are identical.

There is no exemption or caveat in Article 141 that permits the Supreme Court to make a statement about what should not be considered a precedent. The Supreme Court’s function stops when a ruling is issued, and Article 141 takes over.

In State of Andhra Pradesh v. A.P. Jaiswal[4], the Supreme Court emphasised the importance of courts adhering to the concept of stare decisis, stating: “The cornerstone of the administration of justice is consistency. Consistency is what gives people faith in a system, and consistency can never be accomplished without adhering to the rule of finality. The rule of precedents, as well as the concept of stare decisis, were developed by the courts in order to create uniformity in judicial declarations.

These laws and principles are founded on public policy, and if courts do not respect them, the administration of justice will be disrupted.”

In the case of C.N. Rudramurthy v. K. Barkathulla Khan hon’ble Supreme Court has made it clear to the High Courts that they must obey the Supreme Court’s rulings. Judicial discipline demands that the Supreme Court’s explicit statements on what the law is on a particular issue be accepted as binding by other Indian courts. Art. 141 serves as a stamp of approval for all courts, stating that the Supreme Court’s decisions are binding on them.[5]Of course, this is subject to the fundamental principle that a fraudulently obtained order must be deemed as void by the court of first instance or the ultimate court.

The doctrine of precedents in respect of law declared by the Supreme Court is given constitutional status under Article 141. As a result, a Supreme Court decision’s ratio is binding on all courts below it.

The Supreme Court has made it clear to the High Courts that they must obey the Supreme Court’s rulings. Judicial discipline demands that the Supreme Court’s explicit statements on what the law is on a particular issue be accepted as binding by other Indian courts. It was stated in case of Suganthi Suresh Kumar v. Jagdeeshan Art. 141 serves as a stamp of approval for all courts, stating that the Supreme Court’s decisions are binding on them.[6] Of course, this is subject to the fundamental principle that a fraudulently obtained order must be deemed as void by the court of first instance or the ultimate court stated the hon’ble supreme court in A.V. Papayya v. Govt. of A.P(2007)   [7].

The doctrine of precedents in respect of law declared by the Supreme Court is given constitutional status under Article 141. As a result, a Supreme Court decision’s ratio is binding on all courts below it.

With the greatest gratitude and respect, it can be determined that Article 141 does not authorize the Supreme Court to declare that a judgement is not to be considered precedent where the problems and questions of law concerned have been fully resolved. Due to the findings noted above, expressed by the Apex Court in the absence of any statute authorizing the Court to do so, the binding natures of such precedents have become superfluous.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s remarks contradict the goal and intent of the law of precedent and the theory of stare decisis, which do not authorise or grant authority to the Supreme Court to declare a judgement not binding precedent. A special leave petition dismissed by a non-speaking order, on the other hand, which is not the same as a case determined on the merits, is not considered as precedent since the Supreme Court does not deem it a suitable case for special leave, and nothing more.

CONCLUSION

Precedent refers to doing something that has already been done. As a result, the first stage in evaluating a precedent is to assess the resemblance, and if there is any, the size or degree of similarity between the difficulties. Following that, it must be determined whether the same has been utilised before as a precedent and has handled the problem in this manner, indicating that the precedent is effective. As a result of adopting this idea, our legal system benefits in the following ways:

The most significant benefit was that it increased legal clarity and uniformity. Consistency is required in an effective decision-making body.

  1. Avoid making decisions based on a whim.
  2. It removes the element of uncertainty and allows lesser courts to unanimously adopt the decision of the higher court.
  3. The presence of precedent lowers the chances of a judge making an error.
  4. It also supports the notion and interest of justice, as it may be regarded unjust to make different conclusions in identical situations.

As a result, the stare determines concept is extremely beneficial to our legal system. At the same time, the ease of following precedent should not be allowed to devolve into a mechanical activity carried out without consideration. It should be utilised with caution in order to promote justice and equity.


[1]Union of India Vs. Raghubir Singh AIR 1989 SC 1933.

[2]U.M.Padwadhttp://mja.gov.in/Site/Upload/GR/Title%20NO.149(As%20Per%20Workshop%20List%20title%20no149%20pdf).pdf  last visited on 11/28/2021.

[3] Mohd Aqim Aslam, Doctrine of Precedent (Article 141), https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-6023-doctrine-of-precedent-article-141-.html last visited on 11/28/2021.

[4] State of Andhra Pradesh v. A.P. Jaiswal AIR 2001 SC 499: (2001) 1 SCC 748.

[5] C.N. Rudramurthy v. K. Barkathulla Khan, (1998) 8 SCC 275

[6] Suganthi Suresh Kumar v. Jagdeeshan, (2002) 2 SCC 420: AIR 2002 SC 681.

[7] A.V. Papayya v. Govt. of A.P., (2007) 4 SCC 221: AIR 2007 SC 1546

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