Unreasonable decisions taken on technical grounds without looking into the facts are not binding precedents - Synopsis
Abhishek Rathee 17 Mar 2020

In the case of Union of India and others v. M.V. Mohanan Nair, the Supreme Court has noted that the dismissal of a case by the Supreme Court on the grounds of delay in filing / non-filing is not a binding precedent.

The bench comprising of Justice R. Banumathi, Justice AS Bopanna and Justice Hrishikesh Roy made this statement when considering the appeals brought by the Union of India against the High Court judgments, which upheld the decisions of various Central Administrative Tribunals granting a financial upgrade to the rank pay in the next promotional hierarchy by depending on the Union of India and others v. Raj Pal.

One of the issues addressed by the Court was the following: whether the SLP was dismissed on the grounds of delay in filing or re-filing (as in the case of Raj Pal), then it could be treated as a legal 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 proclaimed by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the jurisdiction of India, i.e. the decision on the matter shall serve as a binding precedent for all courts within India. The law proclaimed by the Supreme Court must, in essence, be interpreted as a principle laid down by the court, and it is this principle which has the effect of a precedent. The definition as known by the word itself is a proposition which can only be made on the basis of an analysis of the matter. This can never be achieved in a concise way, far less in a judgment made on factual grounds, without taking into consideration the merits at all. A ruling, which is not followed by a list of reasons, can never be said to be a law proclaimed by the Supreme Court, even though it would bind the parties involved in drawing the court on the conflict.

The bench referred to the rulings of the 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.

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