Judicial Doctrines

February 26, 2018

Judicial doctrines are principles laid down during the functioning of Judicial system through centuries. These are adopted by the Supreme court in theory and practice to set a precedent for the society and to ensure predictability of law which is the basic premise for establishing rule of law. These doctrines have created rules through judicial verdicts which serve as guiding light for society.

  1. Audi alteram Partem:

    • Listen to the other side

  2. Nemo debet esse judex in causa propria sua:

    • No-one should be a judge in his own cause

      • The doctrine of bias emerges from this legal maxim.

  3.  Parens patriae:

    • the monarch, or any other authority, regarded as the legal protector of citizens unable to protect themselves:

      • It was used in Charan Lal Sahu vs. Union of India, 1990 case where the court ordered the legislature to amend the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 in light of Bhopal Gas Tragedy so as to protect the civilians by paying compensation, interim relief and to prevent future accidents.

  4. Ecology or Public Trust Doctrine:

    • Certain common properties such as rivers, seashores, forests and air were held by government in trusteeship for the free and unimpeded use of general public.

      • Used in M.C. Mehta vs. Kamal Nath, 1997 case

  5. Precautionary Principle:

    • It requires the state to anticipate, prevent and attack the causes of environmental degradation.

    • It was given in M.C. Mehta vs. Union of India case, 1997.

  6. Essential Features Doctrine:

    • In Achyarya Jagadishwarananda Avadhuta vs. Commissioner of Police, Calcutta, 1984 case SC evolved the basic feature doctrine which separates the essentials of religion and non-essentials.

  7.  Doctrine of Laches:

    • Laches or unreasonable delay in instituting writ petition may bar the remedy. Trilok Chand vs. Munshi, 1970.

    • However, delay is no bar to quo warranto. [Dr. Kashinath G. Jalmi vs. Speaker, 1993]

    • This was used by SC in the Sardar Sarovar Project where the applicant through PIL opposed the construction of dam after the commencement of execution of project was barred by laches.

  8. Res judicata:

    • A matter that has been adjudicated by a competent court and therefore may not be pursued further by the same parties.

    • The doctrine of res judicata or the principle of finality of judgment cannot be allowed to whittle down or override the express constitutional mandate of the SC enshrined in article 32 of the Constitution [ Baby Devassy Chully vs. UoI, 2013].

    • The pre-requisites which are necessary for Res Judicata are:

      • There must be a final judgment;

      • The judgment must be on the merits;

      • The claims must be the same in the first and second suits;

      • The parties in the second action must be the same as those in the first, or have been represented by a party to the prior action.

  9. Stare Decisis:

    • It means "to stand by things decided". It is the doctrine of Precedent.

    • Courts cite to stare decisis when an issue has been previously brought to the court and a ruling already issued. According to the Supreme Court, stare decisis “promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles, fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process.” In practice, the Supreme Court will usually defer to its previous decisions even if the soundness of the decision is in doubt. A benefit of this rigidity is that a court need not continuously reevaluate the legal underpinnings of past decisions and accepted doctrines. Moreover, proponents argue that the predictability afforded by the doctrine helps clarify constitutional rights for the public. Other commentators point out that courts and society only realize these benefits when decisions are published and made available. Thus, some scholars assert that stare decisis is harder to justify in cases involving secret opinions.

    • The doctrine operates both horizontally and vertically. Horizontal stare decisis refers to a court adhering to its own precedent. A court engages in vertical stare decisis when it applies precedent from a higher court. Consequently, stare decisis discourages litigating established precedents, and thus, reduces spending.

    • Despite the legal stability afforded by stare decisis, it is not without negative externalities. Critics argue that the doctrine occasionally permits erroneous decisions to continue influencing the law and encumbers the legal system’s ability to quickly adapt to change.

    • In reference to Article 141:

      • Decision cannot be considered as binding authority in view of statutory provisions having undergone legislative changes [Chikkusapa vs State of Karnataka, 2006].

  10.  Promissory estoppel

    • Promissory estoppel is a legal principle that a promise is enforceable by law, even if made without formal consideration.

    • The provision of estoppel doesn't apply to statutes as ignorance of law is no excuse. 

  11. Forum non Conveniens:

    • A court's discretionary power to decline to exercise its jurisdiction where another court may more conveniently hear a case.


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