Supreme Court Deprecates Practice Of Pronouncing Final Orders Without Reasoned Judgments

In a latest, learned, landmark and laudable judgment titled Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. vs. Zaixhu Xie & Ors. in Civil Appeal No. 4022/2020 in [SLP [C] No. 15137 2020] D. No. 21991/2020 delivered just recently on December 11, 2020 by a three Judge Bench of Supreme Court comprising of Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Justice Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Hrishikesh Roy, the Supreme Court has pulled back no punches to strongly, sternly and swiftly deprecate the practice of pronouncing the final orders without reasoned judgments. The Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul minced no words to say that, “If a judgment cannot be delivered on the same date or immediately thereafter, logically the judgment ought to have been at least reserved to facilitate the Judge to pen down the order.” This was held so while setting aside an unreasonable order passed by the Delhi High Court.

To start with, it is first and foremost pointed out by the three Judge Bench of Apex Court that, “Delay condoned. Leave granted. We have heard learned counsel for the appellant and learned counsel for respondent Nos. 1 and 2/ the petitioner claimants. We have also perused the report of the Registrar General placed before us in compliance of the order dated 16.11.2020.”

While elaborating in detail, it is then pointed out by the Bench that, “On the basis of the report what emerges is that the file was received in the Chamber of the learned Judge on 11.07.2019 whereafter the matter was taken up on different dates but arguments were only heard on 30.07.2019 in part. It is stated that on 31.07.2019 at about 2.15 p.m. after hearing the further arguments the operative portion/conclusion of the decision was ‘indicated’ in the Court itself in the presence of the counsel for the parties. Thus, it appears that even the concluding paragraph was not penned down. The judgment is stated not to have been reserved.”

What next follows is then revealed by the Bench by pointing out that, “The file was, however, sent back to the Registry after 9½ months on 15.05.2020 and the judgment was uploaded on the same date.”

What is worth noting is that it is then pointed out that, “The certified copy of the order was applied on 29.01.2020 (it is the say of the appellants that there was no pronouncement of any order on 31.07.2019). There was some lapse in preparation of the certified copy due to Covid.”

Of course, it is then also pointed out that, “It is stated that from the report received from the Court Master of the concerned Court, some aspects of the different number of cases dealt with by the learned Judge have been set out as also some personal difficulty of the Judge for some period of time.”

While referring to the relevant case laws, the Bench then elucidates that, “In a recent judgment in Balaji Baliram Mupade & Anr. v. The State of Maharashra & Ors. [Civil Appeal No. 3564 of 2020] dated 29.10.2020, we had been called upon to comment on a similar scenario. We had emphasized that judicial discipline requires promptness in delivery of judgments, an aspect repeatedly emphasized by this Court when this problem gets compounded where the result may be known but not the reasons depriving the aggrieved party of opportunity to seek further judicial redressal. We have also referred to the Constitution Bench judgment of this Court delivered as far back as in 1983 in State of Punjab & Ors. vs. Jagdev singh Talwandi (1984) 1 SCC 596, which drew the attention of the High Court to serious difficulties caused on account of practice which was being increasingly adopted by several High Courts of pronouncing the final orders without reasoned judgments. We have also referred to the subsequent judgments even delivered by this Court in our aforesaid judgment but there is no purpose in repeating the same.”

Most significantly, the Bench then waxes eloquent to state in no uncertain terms that, “We appreciate that the learned Judge may have delivered a number of judgments and dealt with many cases and in the interregnum period may have even faced some personal difficulty as set out in the report but that does not take away from the fact that the process which was required to be followed as set out in the judicial pronouncements has not been followed in the present case. If a judgment cannot be delivered on the same date or immediately thereafter, logically the judgment ought to have been at least reserved to facilitate the Judge to pen down the order. Result of not doing so is that the appellant being the aggrieved party, is unable to avail of the legal remedy.”

As a corollary, what follows is then stated by the Bench pointing out that, “We have to follow the same course of action as in the judgment referred to aforesaid and thus set aside the impugned order and remit the matter back for reconsideration of the High Court on merits, uninfluenced by the reasons which have been set out in the impugned order.”

Finally, the Bench then concludes by holding that, “Needless to say the matter would be taken up by a Bench not consisting of the member who constituted the bench earlier. The appeal is allowed in the aforesaid terms leaving the parties to bear their own costs.”

To conclude, the bottom-line of this commendable judgment is that all Judges must always adhere to what has been laid down so explicitly, elegantly and effectively by the three-Judge Bench of the Apex Court. Supreme Court has in this notable case clearly, commendably, cogently and convincingly deprecated the practice of pronouncing final orders without reasoned judgments. All Judges from now onwards must strive to pronounce final orders with reasoned judgments. This will ensure that the top court is not compelled to once again deprecate the practice of pronouncing final orders without reasoned judgments! Let’s hopes so fervently that Judges do accordingly!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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