Doctrine of Precedent: Definition with Examples

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Doctrine of Precedent

Borrowed from England, the Doctrine of Precedent also known as the Doctrine of Stare Decisis requires lower courts to respect rulings by higher courts. In Britain, all courts follow the lead of the House of Lords. This practice promotes consistency and avoids legal uncertainty. The idea is that well-established legal interpretations should not be overturned simply because an alternative view exists. Moreover, expressed by the Maxim “stare decisis et non quieta movere,” means to uphold decisions and not unsettle established matters. Lord Coke eloquently stated, “Those things which have been so often adjudged ought to rest in peace.” The doctrine’s purpose is to guarantee consistency and avoid unpredictability, with the principle that a long-standing view should not be changed merely because another perspective is possible.

What is the Doctrine of Precedent in India?

India’s Constitution has mentioned the Doctrine of Precedent in Article 141. This Article states that rulings by the Supreme Court of India are binding on all courts in India, including High Courts and tribunals.

  • The Supreme Court itself has emphasized the importance of Article 141.
  • They have explained that lower courts must follow the decisions of the Supreme Court on points of law.
  • Any High Court judgment that disregards or tries to revive a previously overruled Supreme Court decision is considered invalid.
  • The Supreme Court has made it clear that lower courts cannot disregard their rulings simply because they feel a different legal interpretation is possible.
  • They have stressed that following Supreme Court Precedent is not just a matter of courtesy, but a Constitutional mandate.

Also Read: 25 Important Facts About the Constitution of India That You Should Know

Doctrine of Precedent Case Example

The Doctrine of Precedent is a cornerstone of the Indian legal system. Lower courts are bound by the decisions of higher courts in similar cases.

  • In the 2019 case of Bir Singh vs. Union of India, the Supreme Court of India repeated that a judgment on a legal issue sets a precedent for lower courts to follow in future cases with similar facts and legal questions.


What is the doctrine of precedent in India?

It means that Supreme Court rulings bind all Indian courts, as per Article 141.

What is the doctrine of precedent in Ireland?

It means that lower courts must follow higher court rulings, rarely deviating from those of equal rank.

What is Article 143 related to?

It states that the President can seek the Supreme Court’s opinion on legal matters of public importance.

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