Stare decisis is the policy of the court to stand by precedent, or to stand by decided matters”
The phrase “stare decisis” derived from the Latin phrase “stare decisis et non quieta movere (to stand by things decided & not to disturb settled matters).
As per Black’s Law Dictionary : Stare decisis means to stand by decided cases, to uphold precedents or to maintain former adjudications.
Stare decisis is also known as the concept of precedent, which means the decision taken by the higher courts shall be followed/binding on the lower courts, which stands as a precedent to the lower courts. This gives the law finality and maintains consistency and permanence.
Historical background of Doctrine of Stare Decisis
- The desire for certainty & continuity in law gave rise to the doctrine of stare decisis. Initially due to the lack of recording the decisions or judgement of cases in written form, doctrine of stare decisis was not freely used, but after the concept of recording the judgement came, widespread use of this doctrine was witnessed.
- In 1883 the urgent need for recognizing the binding force of precedents was brought into notice in the case of Mirehouse v. Rennel.
- In India the concept of precedent established after the Britishers came to India, which lead down the hierarchy of courts and the concept of higher courts judgement binding the decision of the lower courts.
- In 1935 the Government of India Act, explicitly mentioned that the decision of Federal Courts & Privy Council will be binding all the other Courts decision in British India.
Hence, from 18th century till date stare decisis is a characteristic feature of our legal system.
Stare Decisis: Applications in India
Art. 129 of Indian constitution makes our supreme court a court of record. Article 129 of the Indian Constitution empowers the Supreme Court to be a court of record. In other words, the Supreme Court shall be a court of record and shall have all the powers of such a court, including the power to punish for contempt of itself.
Article 141 of the Constitution of India stipulates that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all Courts within the territory of India. Thus, the general principles laid down, by the Supreme Court are binding on each individual including those who are not a party to an order.
The doctrine of Stare Decisis refers to the concept that courts must follow previously made judicial decisions in cases where the same legal issues are brought before them in subsequent matters. The concept of Stare Decisis aims to pursue four essential objectives, they are as follows –
- The doctrine of Stare Decisis builds confidence amongst the people in planning their economic and social transactions by acknowledging that their actions are in compliance with the law.
- The doctrine of Stare Decisis encourages the private resolution of disputes as the court may give its decision based on the decision of a similar previously decided case or legal issue. Since the parties to an issue already know the outcome of a similar legal issue, they might look for private dispute resolution rather than going through the conventional court procedure.
- The doctrine of Stare Decisis reduces the burden on the courts as well. It eliminates the requirement to litigate again in the cases wherein the decisions have already been given. It also curbs the need for fresh litigation whenever the judge/bench changes.
- The doctrine of Stare Decisis strengthens the confidence of the people in the judiciary as the said doctrine establishes certain restrictions and constraints on the powers of the judges. For instance, the doctrine of Stare Decisis requires the judges to decide legal matters before them in a foreseeable and rational manner.
On whom it is binding : As per Article 141 of Constitution of india
Decision of Supreme Court
- On all inferior Courts (HC and Subordinate Courts)
- Whether is it binding on Supreme Court itself ?
- Decision of larger bench is binding on smaller benches or co-ordinated benches.
Binding Nature of Decision of High Court:
- The decisions of High Court are binding on all subordinate Courts.
- The decision of larger benches is binding on smaller benches.
- The source of this lies in Article -215, 2226, and 227.of the constitution of India.
In certain cases, the bench might be of different opinions and in such cases, the opinion that has the support of the majority shall prevail as a precedent.
In the case of Siddharam Satlingappa Mhetre v. State of Maharashtra and Others. (2011), it was held by the Apex Court that the judgement of a bench that is larger in strength shall be binding not only on a judgement of a bench smaller in strength but also on a Bench of Judges of co-equal strength.
In the case of Pradip Chandra Parija v. Pramod Chandra Patnaik.
If a decision proposed by the bench with three judges has found to be incorrect by a two-judge bench, the latter cannot be followed as the precedent. The issue can be legally addressed only by another three-judge bench.
In the case of Hari Singh v. the State of Haryana (1993), it was held that in a judicial system that is administered by courts, one of the primary principles to keep note of is that the courts under the same jurisdiction must have similar opinions regarding similar legal questions, issues and circumstances. If opinions given on similar legal issues are inconsistent then instead of achieving harmony in the judicial systems, it will result in judicial chaos. The decision regarding a particular case that has been held for a long time cannot be disturbed merely because of the possibility of the existence of another view.