Judgement must be Clear, Simple & Comprehensible: SC

SC remits Himachal Pradesh HC order back

In State Bank of India and Another v Ajay Kumar Sood, the Supreme Court (SC) sets aside the judgement of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh, as the language of the judgement was incomprehensible. Therefore the SC remitted it back to the High Court to rewrite it in an easy-to-understand style.

The SC says that the “judgment of the Division Bench of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh is incomprehensible” and it is “difficult to navigate through the maze of incomprehensible language in the decision” of the Himachal Pradesh HC.

Earlier too SC remanded judgements

Earlier too in State of Himachal Pradesh v Himachal Aluminium & conductors, and Sarla Sood v Pawan Kumar Sharma, the SC had to remand the judgements, which were incapable of being understood, back to the High Court for rewriting.

What a judgement is

A 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. It provides the decision of a court in a legal proceeding along with the reasoning of the judge which leads him to his decision. A judgment should be coherent, systematic and logically organised.

Every judgment contains the four basic elements: the statement of material (relevant) facts, the legal issues or questions, the deliberation to reach at a decision, and the ratio or conclusive decision.

The judgment should be intelligible and logical. It should have clarity and precision. Its conclusions should be supported by reasons duly recorded. Its findings and directions should be precise and specific. Its writing should be an art which involves skilful application of law and logic.

SC says judgements must make sense

The SC pointed out that a judgement must make sense to those whose life and affairs are affected by the outcome of the case.

The court held that to have a logical and flowing judgement it should have the following sections: introduction, setting out the facts, the law, and the issues, applying the law to the facts, determining the relief (including order for cost), and finally the order of the court.

The SC added that the incoherent judgements have a serious impact upon the dignity of our judicial institutions. The court added that the judgement may carry paragraph numbers for easy reference. It would enhance the structure, readability and accessibility of the judgement. A table of contents in longer version make its access the readers better.

Judgements should follow IRAC structure

The judgements must follow an Issue, Rule, Application, and Conclusion (IRAC) structure.

The term Issue refers to the questions of law. The Rule refers to the submissions of the advocates on the application of law. The Application section contains analysis and recording of the reasoning of the court. The Conclusion carries the summary of the determination of the application of the rule to the issues along with the decision vis-a-vis the specific facts.

Summing up

In short, brevity, simplicity and clarity are the hallmarks of good judgment writing. But the greatest of these is clarity, the SC says.

Further reading

  1. State Bank of India and Another v Ajay Kumar Sood [2022(6) KHC SN11 (SC)