Supreme Court of India.

Court orders without reasoned judgement lack merit: Supreme Court

ON April 19, a Supreme Court bench led by Justices M.R. Shah and B.V. Nagarathna, in Indrajeet Yadav versus Santosh Singh and Anr., observed and criticized the practice of the judiciary in pronouncing final orders without a reasoned judgment. The court, in this case, was hearing Criminal Appeals against the Allahabad High Court’s judgment and order allowing such appeals filed by the original accused, and acquitting them for the offences punishable under Section 302 (punishment for murder) read with Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code [IPC].

The court expressed its displeasure at the practice of pronouncing the final orders without a reasoned judgment even as it set aside the high court’s order and judgment on the ground that the reasoned judgment was pronounced and uploaded after a period of almost five months from pronouncing the operative part of the order.

Highlighting the events at the high court, in paragraph 3 of the judgment, the Supreme Court pointed out that the “the arguments in the appeals were concluded on 30.03.2019 and the High Court allowed the said appeals on the very day and pronounced the operative portion of the order…and directed the accused who was in jail to be released, but a reasoned judgment and order was pronounced after a period of approximately five months”.

Relying on its judgments in the cases of State of Punjab & Ors. vs. Jagdev Singh Talwandi (1983)Anil Rai vs. State of Bihar (2001), and Balaji Baliram Mupade & Anr. vs. the State of Maharashtra (2020), the Supreme Court set aside the order and judgment passed by the high court, observing: “Despite the strong observations made by this Court as far as back in the year 1984 and thereafter repeatedly reiterated, still the practice of pronouncing only the operative portion of the judgment without a reasoned judgment and to pass a reasoned judgment subsequently has been continued.  Such a practice of pronouncing the final orders without a reasoned judgment has to be stopped and discouraged”.

It remanded the matter to the high court for fresh consideration. It, however, directed that during the pendency of the appeals before the high court, the accused need not surrender and they may be treated to have been released on bail and continued to be released on bail, subject to the ultimate outcome of the appeals before the High Court. It added that if the conviction is sustained, the accused would surrender within a period of two weeks from the date of the pronouncement of the judgment.

On a similar note, the same bench, in State of Uttarakhand & Anr. vs. Mayan Pal Singh Verma, observed yesterday that the order of the Uttarakhand High Court under challenge was bereft of reasoning and grossly lacked any merit.

Herein, the Supreme Court was hearing a Civil Appeal that challenged the disposal of a writ petition by the high court upholding an order of the Uttarakhand Public Service Tribunal, Dehradun. The order of the Tribunal had been challenged before the high court.

In paragraph 2.2 of the judgement, the Supreme Court observed: “The manner in which the High Court has dealt with and disposed of the writ petition without deciding the writ petition on merits cannot be appreciated at all. When a number of issues/grounds were raised in the writ petition, there was the duty cast upon the High Court to deal with the same and thereafter, to pass a reasoned order.” The Court relied on its previous judgments in Central Board of Trustees vs. M/s Indore Composite Pvt. Ltd. (2018), which highlighted “the necessity to pass a reasoned order”, and Union Public Service Commission vs. Bibhu Prasad Sarangi & Ors. (2021), which held that “[r]easons constitute the soul of judicial decision … [h]ow judges communicate in their judgment is a defining characteristic of the judicial process [since] [t]he quality of justice brings legitimacy to the judiciary”.

Setting aside the order of the high court, the Supreme Court observed that “the order is bereft of reasoning as diverse grounds were urged/raised by the parties which ought to have been examined by the High Court in the first place and a clear finding was required to be recorded on analysing the relevant documents”. It remanded the matter back to the high court for deciding the writ petition afresh in accordance with law and the Supreme Court’s observations in the instant judgment.