27 Sep 2010

Why reasons are essential for a decision: Supreme Court explains

We have written often on this blog about decisions and concepts which require a decision making authority (either in executive and administrative capacity or a judicial one) to provide reasons for the decision to be given. Like we earlier wrote about Reasoning being essential in every decision, and that it forms a part of the Guidelines for writing judgments. Despite having stated such, we cannot resist writing about a recent decision [M/s. Kranti Associates Pvt. Ltd. v. Masood Ahmed Khan] of the Supreme Court which serves as an essay on the requirement to provide reasons in every decision. 

The Bench extensively examined the growth of law on this proposition and the earlier decision, both from the English Courts as well of the Supreme Court itself, in such detail that even the blog template refused to accommodate all of the text. Thus we have no option but to run only the principles summarized in the decision while without doubt recommending our readers to have a look at the decision (relevant at para 15-51).

The decision succinctly summarizes the  principles in the following terms (paragraph 55); 
a. In India the judicial trend has always been to record reasons, even in administrative decisions, if such decisions affect anyone prejudicially. 
b. A quasi-judicial authority must record reasons in support of its conclusions.
c. Insistence on recording of reasons is meant to serve the wider principle of justice that justice must not only be done it must also appear to be done as well.
d. Recording of reasons also operates as a valid restraint on any possible arbitrary exercise of judicial and quasi-judicial or even administrative power.
e. Reasons reassure that discretion has been exercised by the decision maker on relevant grounds and by disregarding extraneous considerations.
f. Reasons have virtually become as indispensable a component of a decision making process as observing principles of natural justice by judicial, quasi-judicial and even by administrative bodies.
g. Reasons facilitate the process of judicial review by superior Courts.
h. The ongoing judicial trend in all countries committed to rule of law and constitutional governance is in favour of reasoned decisions based on relevant facts. This is virtually the life blood of judicial decision making justifying the principle that reason is the soul of justice. 
i. Judicial or even quasi-judicial opinions these days can be as different as the judges and authorities who deliver them. All these decisions serve one common purpose which is to demonstrate by reason that the relevant factors have been objectively considered. This is important for sustaining the litigants’ faith in the justice delivery system.
j. Insistence on reason is a requirement for both judicial accountability and transparency. 
k. If a Judge or a quasi-judicial authority is not candid enough about his/her decision making process then it is impossible to know whether the person deciding is faithful to the doctrine of precedent or to principles of incrementalism. 
l. Reasons in support of decisions must be cogent, clear and succinct. A pretence of reasons or ‘rubber-stamp reasons’ is not to be equated with a valid decision making process.
m. It cannot be doubted that transparency is the sine qua non of restraint on abuse of judicial powers. Transparency in decision making not only makes the judges and decision makers less prone to errors but also makes them subject to broader scrutiny.  (See David Shapiro in Defence of Judicial Candor (1987) 100 Harward Law Review 731-737).
n. Since the requirement to record reasons emanates from the broad doctrine of fairness in decision making, the said requirement is now virtually a component of human rights and was considered part of Strasbourg Jurisprudence. See (1994) 19 EHRR 553, at 562 para 29 and Anya vs. University of Oxford, 2001 EWCA Civ 405, wherein the Court referred to Article 6 of European Convention of Human Rights which requires, “adequate and intelligent reasons must be given for judicial decisions”.
o. In all common law jurisdictions judgments play a vital role in setting up precedents for the future. Therefore, for development of law, requirement of giving reasons for the decision is of the essence and is virtually a part of “Due Process”.

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