1 Dec 2009

Reasons to be given for decisions: Supreme Court

In a recently decided case the Supreme Court has urged the High Court to impress upon the them the time-tested needed and fundamental tenet of judicial system; to give reasons for their decisions. A mere glimpse of the facts would make it obvious, though, for this request. The compensation for land acquisition in some matter was fixed by the Reference officer at Rs. 4,00,000 per acre. This was challenged in appeal before the High Court, reducing the       compensation from Rs.4,00,000/- per acre to Rs. 3,75,200/- per acre. This was challenged before the Supreme Court. 

In these facts, the Supreme Court noted, "We find that the judgment of the High Court is very short and sketchy and does not contain any facts. It contains only a reference to a table of sale statistics relating to nine transactions given by the sub-Registrar and the following reasoning : 'In the present case the notification is dated 26th March, 2002. The sale of one gunta sold in Sy. No.6 for R.1400 the value of land at that rate would Rs.156,000. If 33% is deducted towards development charges the compensation would be Rs.3,75,200/- per acre.' It is not possible to discern either the facts or the reasons for the decision. There is no reference to the findings of the reference court. There are several errors in the two sentences deciding the appeals."

With the background, the Supreme Court emphasized the need for judicial reasoning as the touch-stone of fairness in decision making and also as the rationale for the appellate review. The Supreme Court noted;

We are conscious of the high pendency and work load on the High Courts. Some learned Judges, in their effort to speed up disposals and reduce pendency, tend to write cryptic and short orders. While expedition and brevity is to be encouraged and appreciated, the   importance of reasons in support of the decision cannot be ignored. If judgments in first appeals are written without reference to     facts    (where   decision     is    on   facts)   or   without assigning any justifiable reason/s for the decision, they will be open to legitimate criticism. The litigants will be puzzled by the lack of reasoning and will lose faith in the institution. Further any appellate court will not be able to fathom whether the judgment is correct or not. Courts, whose judgments are subject to appeal have to remember that the function of a reasoned judgment are:
(i) to inform the litigant the reasons for the decision; 
(ii) to demonstrate fairness and correctness of the decision; 
(iii) to exclude arbitrariness and bias; and 
(iv) to enable the appellate/revisional court to pronounce upon the correctness of the decision. 
In this scenario, the Supreme Court sent the matter back to the High Court for fresh consideration and to dispose of the matter by supplying reasoning to that regard. Have a look at the decision.

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