Doctrine of Precedent in Modern India


The ordinary definition of precedent is a previous instance or case which is or may be taken as an example or rule in subsequent cases by which similar acts or circumstances can be supported or justified. In judicial field it means guidance and authority for past decisions for future cases. The significant development in the theory of precedent were made during British rule in India. In 1813 Mr. Dorian suggested that statutory force will be given to the theory of precedent. 20th century has been the fulfillment of Dorian’s wishes. According to the Section 212 of GOI Act 1935, law declared by federal court and privy council was made binding on all courts by British India. Under the present Constitution of India also u/a 374 and 141 the decision of the superior court has been made binding upon the subordinate court. In 1954, in Dwarikadas Shrinivas Vs. Sholapur Spinning and Weaving Co. Justice Das expressed that Supreme Court is not bound by its own decision and may reverse its own decision. In Bengal Immunity Case, the Supreme Court of India reversed its own previous decision and held-

  • The majority decisions of supreme court are binding on the lower courts.
  • Supreme court is not bound by the decision of lesser courts.
  • A closely decided decision of supreme court is open for reconsideration.
  • The decision of supreme court binds the court and not the legislature.

In Puttlalal Vs. Parbati Kumar, AIR 1915 it has been held laid down that the High Court is bound by the judgement of the privy council as matter of duty and the court subordinate to it is duty bound to follow its decisions.

Historically speaking the Law Reports Act 1873 which facilitated the publication of the High Courts decision is the starting point of the bindings of the High Courts decision.



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