A Bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah has outlined guidelines on how to write Judgments, while considering appeals against orders under Section 389 Cr.P.C. granting bail to persons convicted under Section 302 of IPC and other offenses. The Bench observed that they have come across many Judgments with 'lack of clarity'.
The Bench noted, "We have come across many judgments which lack clarity on facts, reasoning and the findings and many a times it is very difficult to appreciate what the learned judge wants to convey through the judgment and because of that, matters are required to be remanded for fresh consideration. It is not adequate that a decision is accurate, it must also be reasonable, logical and easily comprehensible. The judicial opinion is to be written in such a way that it elucidates in a convincing manner and proves the fact that the verdict is righteous and judicious. What the court says, and how it says it, is equally important as what the court decides."
The Court threw light on how to write Judgments and defined the term "Judgment".
The Bench observed, "First of all, let us consider what "judgment" is. "Judgment" means a judicial opinion which tells the story of the case; what the case is about; how the court is resolving the case and why. "Judgment" is defined as any decision given by a court on a question or questions or issue between the parties to a proceeding properly before court. It is also defined as the decision or the sentence of a court in a legal proceeding along with the reasoning of a judge which leads him to his decision. The term "judgment" is loosely used as judicial opinion or decision."
"Roslyn Atkinson, J., Supreme Court of Queensland, in her speech once stated that there are four purposes for any judgment that is written: i) to spell out judges own thoughts; ii) to explain your decision to the parties; iii) to communicate the reasons for the decision to the public; and iv) to provide reasons for an appeal court to consider. It is not adequate that a decision is accurate, it must also be reasonable, logical and easily comprehensible."
The Bench observed that every Judgment should have four basic elements. It pointed out,
"Every judgment contains four basic elements and they are (i) statement of material (relevant) facts, (ii) legal issues or questions, (iii) deliberation to reach at decision and (iv) the ratio or conclusive decision. A judgment should be coherent, systematic and logically organized. It should enable the reader to trace the fact to a logical conclusion on the basis of legal principles. It is pertinent to examine the important elements in a judgment in order to fully understand the art of reading a judgment. In the Path of Law, Holmes J. has stressed the insentient factors that persuade a judge. A judgment has to formulate findings of fact, it has to decide what the relevant principles of law are, and it has to apply those legal principles to the facts. The important elements of a judgment are: i) Caption ii) Case number and citation iii) Facts iv) Issues v) Summary of arguments by both the parties vi) Application of law vii) Final conclusive verdict."
The Court observed that Judgments should be intelligible and logical. The quality should not suffer due to quantity. The Court observed, "The judgment replicates the individuality of the judge and therefore it is indispensable that it should be written with care and caution. The reasoning in the judgment should be intelligible and logical. Clarity and precision should be the goal. All conclusions should be supported by reasons duly recorded. The findings and directions should be precise and specific. Writing judgments is an art, though it involves skilful application of law and logic. We are conscious of the fact that the judges may be overburdened with the pending cases and the arrears, but at the same time, quality can never be sacrificed for quantity. Unless judgment is not in a precise manner, it would not have a sweeping impact. There are some judgments that eventually get overruled because of lack of clarity. Therefore, whenever a judgment is written, it should have clarity on facts; on submissions made on behalf of the rival parties; discussion on law points and thereafter reasoning and thereafter the ultimate conclusion and the findings and thereafter the operative portion of the order. There must be a clarity on the final relief granted."
The Bench also observed that a litigant must understand the relief granted to him. "A party to the litigation must know what actually he has got by way of final relief. The aforesaid aspects are to be borne in mind while writing the judgment, which would reduce the burden of the appellate court too. We have come across many judgments which lack clarity on facts, reasoning and the findings and many a times it is very difficult to appreciate what the learned judge wants to convey through the judgment and because of that, matters are required to be remanded for fresh consideration. Therefore, it is desirable that the judgment should have clarity, both on facts and law and on submissions, findings, reasoning and the ultimate relief granted."
Facts of the Case
Appeals were filed against orders passed by the Allahabad High Court granting bail to murder convicts, merely 8 months after their imprisonment. The Trial Court had sentenced the accused to life imprisonment for murdering one Kripa Shankar Shukla in 1995. Another FIR was registered against the accused for threatening witnesses, during the trial of the case. The investigation by the CB-CID found that the original investigating officer had tried to save the accused by portraying the murder as a case of an accident and that the Doctor who prepared the post mortem report deliberately mentioned wrong reasons to protect the accused. The Trial Court had ordered the prosecution of the investigating officer and the Doctor. The accused had filed appeals and the High Court granted them bail, pending the appeals. The wife of the deceased challenged the orders granting bail. The Bench set aside the orders of the High Court and directed the accused to surrender forthwith and serve their sentence.
Case details: Shakuntala Shukla Versus State of Uttar Pradesh and Another (CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 876 OF 2021)
Coram: Justice DY Chandrachud, Justice MR Shah