The apex court today ruled that a majority judgement by a larger bench will prevail over even a unanimous ruling by a bench of lesser number, although the strength of judges considering the majority in the former may be less than or same to the number of judges on the minor bench.
What this means is that a 4:3 ruling by the bench will get over a unanimous 5 bench judgement.
A five-judge Constitution bench presided by Justice Indira Banerjee noted this while observing a clutch of petitions that challenged certain provisions of the Delhi Sales Tax Act, and exceptions provided for tax exemption.
The bench, has also have Justices Hemant Gupta, Surya Kant, M M Sundresh and Sudhanshu Dhulia, noted that the court had gone into the issue in its judgment wherein it struck down the state government of Maharashtra’s decision to provide 16% reservation for members of the Maratha community in jobs and admissions. The bench clearly mentioned that “The view of Bhat, J. was expressly concurred by Rao, J. and Gupta, J. There was no dissent to the view”.
The court delivered that “in view of Article 145(5) of the Constitution, concurrence of a majority of the judges at the hearing will be considered as a judgment or opinion of the court…. It is settled that the majority decision of a Bench of larger strength would prevail over the decision of a Bench of lesser strength, irrespective of the number of judges constituting the majority.”
While Supreme Court Judges Banerjee, Surya Kant, Sundresh and Dhulia delivered single Judgement, Justice Gupta gave a different judgement agreeing with the others and said “…it has been rightly concluded that the numerical strength of the judges taking a particular view is not relevant, but the Bench strength is determinative of the binding nature of the Judgment.”