New Delhi, Sep 19: The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the majority decision of a bench of larger strength would prevail over the decision of a bench of lesser strength, regardless of the number of judges taking the majority view.
A five-judge constitution bench, headed by Justice Indira Banerjee, said: “In view of Article 145(5) of the Constitution of India, concurrence of a majority of the judges at the hearing will be considered as a judgment or opinion of the court. It is settled that the majority decision of a bench of larger strength would prevail over the decision of a bench of lesser strength, irrespective of the number of judges constituting the majority.”
Justice Banerjee authored the judgment on behalf of herself and also for Justices Surya Kant, M.M. Sundresh, and Sudhanshu Dhulia.
Justice Hemant Gupta, in his separate and concurring judgement, said that a decision delivered by a bench of largest strength is binding on any subsequent bench of lesser or coequal strength.
He noted that senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan referred to Article 145(5) to contend that a judgment of this court is mandated to be delivered with the concurrence of a majority of the judges present at the hearing of the case, but nothing in this clause shall be deemed to prevent a judge who does not concur from delivering a dissenting judgment or opinion. Thus, the Constitution itself envisaged that the judgment is by the majority of the judges.
Justice Gupta said: “A decision delivered by a Bench of largest strength is binding on any subsequent Bench of lesser or coequal strength. It is the strength of the Bench and not number of Judges who have taken a particular view which is said to be relevant. However, conclusion (2) makes it absolutely clear that a Bench of lesser quorum cannot disagree or dissent from the view of law taken by a Bench of larger quorum. Quorum means the bench strength which was hearing the matter.”
He said it has been rightly concluded that the numerical strength of the judges taking a particular view is not relevant, but the bench strength is determinative of the binding nature of the judgment.
According to this apex court judgment, in a seven-bench decision of 4:3, the majority view would prevail over the unanimous view of a five-judge constitution bench.
In 2017, a two-judge bench of the apex court had referred to the matter to the constitution bench.