Split Decisions on Division Benches of the Supreme Court

In the past couple of weeks, two Supreme Court decisions have been ill-fated in that they were rendered meaningless due to split verdicts by 2-judge bench of the Supreme Court of India.

First one was the bail plea of Abdul Nasir Maudany, prime accused in the Bangalore bomb blasts of 2008.

Second was the decision in a PIL regarding an office of profit held by the IPL Chennai Super Kings owner and BCCI Treasurer N. Srinivasan.

There are two consequences of this:

  1. It renders the decision bad in the eye of the law – the precedential value of which having been reduced due to the split verdict.
  2. It creates an additional burden on the already overburdened Indian judiciary as now this incongruous decision will have to be resolved by a higher 3-judge bench.
Jurisprudentially, it is unfavorable to constitute 2-judge benches.  Especially in the higher judiciary as the aftermath of split decisions, not unlikely given the highly opinionated and free judges with a license to independently differ from their colleagues, is likely to affect the justice delivery system. Something that has to be kept in mind by the Chief Justices when constituting benches to hear matters at our High Courts and the Supreme Court.

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