Decisions without reasons passed technically without merits not Binding Precedents – SC

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“It can never be in a summary manner, much less be rendered in a decision delivered on technical grounds, without entering into the merits at all. ” 

The Supreme Court has observed that the dismissal of a case by it on the ground of delay in filing/non-filing is not a binding precedent. 

The bench of Justices R. Banumathi, AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy made this observation while considering appeals filed by Union of India against High Court judgments which upheld decisions rendered by different Benches of Central Administrative Tribunal, granting financial upgradation of grade pay in the next promotional hierarchy by placing reliance upon Union of India and others v. Raj Pal.

Issue : When the SLP has been dismissed on the ground of delay in filing or of refiling (like in the case of Raj Pal), whether it can be taken as a binding precedent on the merits of the case as the “law declared by the Supreme Court within the meaning of Article 141 of the Constitution of India”. 

Article 141 of the Constitution of India provides that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India, i.e. the pronouncement of the law on the point shall operate as a binding precedent on all courts within India. Law declared by the Supreme Court has to be essentially understood as a principle laid down by the court and it is this principle which has the effect of a precedent. A principle as understood from the word itself is a proposition which can only be delivered after examination of the matter on merits. It can never be in a summary manner, much less be rendered in a decision delivered on technical grounds, without entering into the merits at all. A decision, unaccompanied by reasons can never be said to be a law declared by the Supreme Court though it will bind the parties inter-se in drawing the curtain on the litigation.

 The bench, in this regard, referred to the decisions in Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association v. Union of India and Others (1989) 4 SCC 187, and Union of India v. All India Service Pensioners’ Association and another (1988) 2 SCC 580.