Doctrine of Precedent (Article 141)

Doctrine of Precedent (Article 141)

Decision which have already been taken by a higher court are binding to the lower court and at the same time stand as a precedent to the lower court judgement, which cannot be altered by lower court. This principle is known as Stare decisis, which is derived from the Latin phrase “stare decisis et non quieta movere”, which basically means to stand by the decided matters. In India it is commonly known as the concept of precedent.

The desire for certainty and continuity in law gave rise to the doctrine of stare decisis. This doctrine was initially used in medieval England and America, where the common-law courts looked into the judgement of earlier cases as guidance also they had power to reject those which they does not considered good or which they considered bad. Doctrine of stare decisis under Art. 141 of the Constitution of India Art. 141 of the Indian  Constitution states that “law declared by Supreme Court to be binding on all courts within territory of India.” Art. 141 state that only the ratio decendi of a case is binding not the obiter dicta and the mere facts of the cases. Therefore, while applying the decision of S.C. by other courts, what is required is to understand the true principle lay down by the previous decision.

Some basic concepts of Article 141

1. All the courts in India are bound by law to follow the decision of Supreme Court.
2. Firstly the judgement has to be read as a whole and at the same time the observation from the judgement has to be determined in the light of the questions presented before the court.

Types of precedents

1. Original and Declaratory precedents
2. Authoritative or Binding precedent
3. Persuasive precedent

Advantages of precedents:

  1. It is time saving avoids unnecessary litigations
  2. There is an orderly development of the law It brought greater certainty and consistency in law, which is the most remarkable advantage. As a good decision making body needs to have consistency
  3. Avoid arbitrariness in judgements.
  4. It eliminates the element of ambiguity and enables the lower courts to follow the decision of higher court unanimously.
  5. The presence of precedent decreases the probability of a judge making a mistake.
  6. It also serves the concept and interest of justice as giving different decision to similar situation might be considered unjust.


In loose sense it includes merely reported case law which may be cited and followed by courts. In strict sense, that case law which not only has great binding authority but must also be followed. In all precedents are authority of past decisions for future cases. It must be reported, cited and followed by courts.

Stare decisis

The maxim explains the doctrine of stare decisis. When court settles an issue, a conflict or a controversy between parties it becomes the law on those issues and conflicts. Such a decision is a precedent.

Ratio Decidendi

Ratio decidendi means the reason or the principle upon which the case has been decided by the higher Courts and only this much is binding on the subordinate courts while applying the earlier decision.

Obiter Dicta

Obiter Dicta means all that is said by the court by the way or the statement of law which go beyond the requirements of the particular case and which laid down rule i.e. irrelevant or unnecessary for the purpose in hand are called obiter dicta.

When Precedents cease to apply

There are three main criteria to oversight the previous precedents as follows ;-

I] Overruling
II] Reversing
III] Distinguishing

Author: vedant bajaj,
sls nagpur/1st yr ballb student

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