Meaning of Doctrine of Stare Decisis-
The Doctrine of Stare Decisis means let the decision stand in its right place. This doctrine comes from the legal maxim ‘stare decisis et non quieta movere’ which translates to stand by the decisions which have already been given. When a decision given by the higher court contains a new principle, it is binding on subordinates courts and has persuasive authority for equivalent courts. This rule is based on expediency and public policy. Although this doctrine is generally followed by the courts, it may not be applicable if the court is convinced that the previous wrong is likely to result in an erroneous decision. In common law, it is known as Precedent.
Origin of DOCTRINE OF STARE DECISIS-
The Doctrine of Stare Decisis has been accepted under Indian law, as a huge amount of it has been inspired by the English law. Due to this influence, the system of law reporting has also fairly developed in India. The Doctrine of Stare Decisis has developed due to the progress made in law-reporting.
In earlier times, there was no Doctrine of Stare Decisis as there was no reporting of the decisions of the Courts in England. The origin of reporting of decisions in England can be traced back to the 17th century when the decisions of Exchequer Courts came to be reported and were given a binding force. In 1833, Chief Justice Park reiterated the need for recognizing the binding force of precedents in the historic decision in Mirehouse v. Rennel. Later, with the establishment of the High Court of Judicature by the Acts of 1873 & 1875, the Doctrine of Stare Decisis was firmly established and now it forms an indispensable part of the British legal system.
The operation of the Doctrine of Stare Decisis presupposes the existence of the hierarchy of courts. For example, in India the lowermost courts are the subordinate courts (District Court, Village Court, and so on), above them are High Courts and the Supreme Court is at the top of the hierarchy. Thus, the Supreme Court is the highest judicial Court in India.
This principle can now be found in Article 141 of the Indian Constitution which states that the decisions given by the Supreme Court are binding on all the other courts in India. Although, the Supreme Court itself is not bound by it and can thus overrule or makes changes accordingly.
General Principles of the Doctrine –
(1) Each court is bound by the decisions of the court above it.
(2) The Higher courts are bound by their own decisions up to a certain extent. However, in India, the Supreme Court is not bound by its own earlier decision.
(3) The decision of one High Court is not binding on any other High Court and it has only a persuasive value.
(4) A Single Bench Judge is bound to follow the decision given by a Division Bench of the same High Court but a Division Bench is not bound to follow a decision of a Single Bench Judge of the same High Court.
(5) Decision of a larger Bench of the Supreme Court is binding on a Division Bench of this Court especially where the particular determination of this Court not only disposes of the case but also decides a principle of law.
Maktul v. Manbhari
The Supreme Court in in this case held held that if the correctness of a decision has been challenged time and again, the Rule of Stare Decisis need not be applied.
Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association v. Union of India
However, the Supreme Court in this held that the Doctrine of Stare Decisis is not an inflexible rule and it has little relevance in constitutional cases. The Court observed that there is no doubt that the Rule of Stare Decisis brings about consistency and uniformity but at the same time in exercising its inherent power, the Supreme Court should ask itself whether, in the interest of public good or other valid reason, it is necessary that its earlier decision should be revised.
Krishna Swamy v. Union of India
Mr. Justice Ramaswamy of the Supreme Court spelled out the basic philosophy and limits of the Doctrine of Stare Decisis thus observing that the decision of the Supreme Court is the last word on the interpretation of the Constitution and the law of the land under Art. 141. The Judge is the living oracle working in the dry light of realism pouring life and forced into the dry bones of law to articulate the necessities which are felt at that time. The law laid down by this Court operates as a precedent and thus needs stability, continuity, and certainty.
Bachan Singh v. the State of Punjab
The Supreme Court held that if the Doctrine of Stare Decisis was followed just for the sake of it, it would degrade the growth of law and affect its capacity to the changing needs of society.
Precedents are the judgments delivered by courts that are binding on the subordinate courts. The courts have played a huge role in the development of law and thus their judgments have acted as an important source of law. The Doctrine of Stare Decisis has also sometimes led to wrong decisions thus leading to injustice.