Discuss, To what extent does courts obsession with precedent blinds them to achive justice?
It is very normal for the judges in the legal system across the globe to come to conclusions with regards the cases basis the decisions and pronouncements made in the earlier court cases. This is how are legal system across the globe has been built. The said system has become an indispensible part of the legal system and there are times judges tend to follow the same blindfolded. This may lead to defeating of the very purpose of providing justice to the innocent. Although the precedent cases may help to provide the judge with the decisions that can be pronounced but if the circumstance is not same in all forms then the same should be reviewed and individual judgmental factors should form a part of the judgement. But even though he has to use his own judiciary knowledge while taking a decision, the same should be in line with the previous pronouncements. However some deviations are attached to the said concept of following the precedence.
Every case has something different; hence the judge should make decisions only after understanding the details of the case. He can take an independent decision and make new judgements but within the boundaries of the common law that is spelt out by the judiciary. In such cases the earlier judgements may act as a guide which would help them to take decisions. Thus it does not blind the courts and the judges to take decisions basis the precedence for the achievement of justice in totality. There is application of the other laws applicable and the precedent cases act as a guidance to take proper decisions. It even helps to defend if the decisions taken by the judges of the lower courts are further challenged by the sufferer in the higher benches of the judicial structure. In that scenario the basis of decisions pronounced are elaborated which helps to solve the issue smoothly.
If someone is convicted of committing a crime then the approach is somewhat similar. The Criminal Code has defined what the maximum and the minimum penalty can be and basis this they pronounce decisions depending upon the veracity of the crime committed. The judge should not make a decision basis the previous decisions simply by reviewing the case blindly. He should understand the seriousness of the crime, the people who are affected because of the same, the background of the offender and if there seems to be an option for rehabilitation. They refer previous judgements just to ensure that there are no unfair decisions taken. Thus even in the criminal offence the same acts as a guide.
Therefore it is understood that the courts take decisions basis the previous judgements but are not dependent fully for the same. They do use their own judgemental attributes as well. Thus blind dependence is not there, in fact judges use the decisions taken by the eminent judges for similar situations help them to act is a more wiser manner and prevent them to take any wrong decision. Thus they are not compulsorily binding except in certain circumstances. The stance where the previous legal proceedings’ decisions are binding on the judges is known as ‘stare decisis’. The said phrase means that we should follows what the decisions have already been made and not make efforts to disturb the undisturbed. The said principle has two parts, firstly where any decisions has been manifested by the supreme court of a country, the same becomes binding over the other lower courts. The second principle states that any decision given by the courts lower than the Supreme Court can be used as guidance but it is not obligatory for the judges to follow the precedence blindly.
There have been instances where the lower courts have made pronouncements which are not totally in line with the previous judgements made in the higher courts. In such a scenario they are to defend and explain as to why the same is different from the binding precedence. Basis an appeal made by the deciding court, decision can be taken in contrast to the defined precedent of the case. Further if there is no appeal made by the party who loses the case, then the decision made by the appellate court is considered to be final and binding as well.
This ‘Common Law’ system is basically found in England and United States of America. Many theorists and eminent scholars have argued that there may be instances when reasoning basis a precedent may not be similar to what one would have decided if the judicial rules were applied. Even though the case backgrounds are similar to the previous already pronounced case, yet the same may not be rational. Cases which are same and similar should not be treated at the same level. It is very important to understand that the previous decisions are not bound to constitute laws. These decisions have come to picture due to the applicability of the constituted laws by the judicial authority. However this fact cannot be denied that these precedents have acted as an auxiliary part in settling down of issues.
The courts obsession to follow the precedents blindly acts as a hindrance to the achievement of justice as there are two main issues firstly the constitution of law has lead to emergence of the precedents, then how can the same be treated as a part of the law. Secondly there may be instances when the previous decisions may be erroneous, then why make it part of the constitute. The independence of the judges is also hampered. They may be taking a correct decision but on getting bounded by the earlier decisions may end up taking incorrect decisions thus can also lead to punishing the innocent and rewarding the guilty.
The blind following of precedence does affect the achievement of justice due to the rigidity of following what is pronounced. It makes the system inflexible and the judges lack application of their own wit. Judges should understand that the doctrine of ‘stare decisis’ is not compulsorily to be followed. It is to be followed as a guide. It is also to be understood that reliance on the constitution is better than relying upon the unconstituted decisions which may be even erroneous in some circumstances.
Thus the same can be summarized by stating that precedents help the judges to take sound decisions but total dependency on the same affects the very law of providing justice. Some precedents are bounded and there is no escape from the same. However judges may try to defend the case not basis the binding precedent but the same is a difficult stance. Some precedence are persuasive in nature whereby the earlier pronouncement can be used as a guide and does not necessitates to act in accordance to the precedent spelt out. Thus total dependence upon the precedence rule may end up leading to take hasty decisions at times also. Thus a judge should also use his own knowledge base and analyze all the aspects of a case, pay heed to the smallest of evidences and apply rationality while arriving at a case’s judgment.
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