8 May 2010

Guidelines for writing judgments: Supreme Court prescribes

Unamused that an order passed by the High Court in challenge before it "is not only cryptic but does not even remotely deal with the arguments which were sought to be projected before it", the Supreme Court went on to prescribe the guidelines required to be observed while writing judgments. The rationale, the Bench noted, lied in the fact that "no doubt, it is true that brevity is an art but brevity without clarity likely to enter into the realm of absurdity, which is impermissible".

In this background, the Supreme Court laid out the guidelines for writing judgments in the following terms;

7. These guidelines are only illustrative in nature, not exhaustive and can further be elaborated looking to the need and requirement of a given case:-
a) It should always be kept in mind that nothing should be written in the judgment/order, which may not be germane to the facts of the case; It should have a co-relation with the applicable law and facts. The ratio decidendi should be clearly spelt out from the judgment / order.
b) After preparing the draft, it is necessary to go through the same to find out, if anything, essential to be mentioned, has escaped discussion.
c) The ultimate finished judgment/order should have sustained chronology, regard being had to the concept that it has readable, continued interest and one does not feel like parting or leaving it in the midway. To elaborate, it should have flow and perfect sequence of events, which would continue to generate interest in the reader. 
d) Appropriate care should be taken not to load it with all legal knowledge on the subject as citation of too many judgments creates more confusion rather than clarity. The foremost requirement is that leading judgments should be mentioned and the evolution that has taken place ever since the same were pronounced and thereafter, latest judgment, in which all previous judgments have been considered, should be mentioned. While writing judgment, psychology of the reader has also to be borne in mind, for the perception on that score is imperative. 
e) Language should not be rhetoric and should not reflect a contrived effort on the part of the author. 
f) After arguments are concluded, an endeavour should be made to pronounce the judgment at the earliest and in any case not beyond a period of three months. Keeping it pending for long time, sends a wrong signal to the litigants and the society.
g) It should be avoided to give instances,which are likely to cause public agitation or to a particular society. Nothing should be reflected in the same which may hurt the feelings or emotions of any individual or society.

One can only hope that given the binding effect of the law declared by the Supreme Court and in any case also for the sake of clarity in judicial thought and benefit of public these guidelines would be adhered and one would be able to perceive the reasons for a particular decision in the decision itself. 

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