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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Precedentiary Value of Judgments : The Law

Justice Anil Kumar
Delhi High Court
Justice Anil Kumar of the Delhi High Court, while dealing with a writ for reinstatement of services of an employee, in Narender Kumar Gupta vs Union Of India And Others has discussed the precedent value of judgment and how the same are to be interpreted. The Court observed, as under;

The precedents relied on by the petitioner are apparently distinguishable. The ratio of any decision must be understood in the background of the facts of that case. What is of the essence in a decision is its ratio and not every observation found therein nor what logically follows from the various observations made in it. It must be remembered that a decision is only an authority for what it actually decides. It is well settled that a little difference in facts or additional facts may make a lot of difference in the precedential value of a decision. In Bhavnagar University v. Palitana Sugar Mills Pvt Ltd (2003) 2 SCC 111 (vide para 59), the Supreme had observed:- 
" It is well settled that a little difference in facts or additional facts may make a lot of difference in the precedential value of a decision."
The Supreme Court in Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd and Anr. v. N.R.Vairamani and Anr. (AIR 2004 SC 778) had also held that a decision cannot be relied on without considering the factual situation. In the same judgment the Supreme Court also observed:- " Court should not place reliance on decisions without discussing as to how the factual situation fits in with the fact situation of the decision on which reliance is placed. Observations of Courts are neither to be read as Euclid's theorems nor as provisions of the statute and that too taken out of their context. These observations must be read in the context in which they appear to have been stated. Judgments of Courts are not to be construed as statutes. To interpret words, phrases and provisions of a statute, it may become necessary for judges to embark into lengthy discussions but the discussion is meant to explain and not to define. Judges interpret statutes, they do not interpret judgments. They interpret words of statutes; their words are not to be interpreted as statutes."

In P.S.Rao Vs State, JT 2002 (3) SC 1, the Supreme Court had held as under:
"There is always a peril in treating the words of judgment as though they are words in a legislative enactment and it is to be remembered that judicial utterances are made in setting of the facts of a particular case. Circumstantial flexibility, one additional or different fact may make a world of difference between conclusion in two cases."
In Rafiq Vs State, 1980 SCC (Crl) 946 it was observed as under: 
"The ratio of one case cannot be mechanically applied to another case without having regard to the fact situation and circumstances obtaining in two cases."

3 comments:

  1. Very useful Article, I was looking for this...

    ReplyDelete
  2. This judgment must be circulated around the city courts, where the lower judicial officers are being mis-guided by age old judgments in deep contrast to the prevailing/applicable judicial law. It is difficult for an advocate at the district level to make the judges understand the concept of change in factual matrix and the concept of distinguishable judgment. However, I still abide by one concept that "ratio decidendi" must be followed in true spirit unless overruled or referred to a larger bench.

    ReplyDelete
  3. this is good judgment, it should be publish in legal news...

    ReplyDelete

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