The Supreme Court on Monday ruled that a majority verdict by a larger bench will prevail over even a unanimous decision by a bench of lesser strength, although the number of judges constituting the majority in the former may be less than or equal to the number of judges on the smaller bench.
What this means is that a 4:3 ruling by the court will prevail over a unanimous five-judge bench verdict.
A five-judge Constitution bench presided by Justice Indira Banerjee said this while deciding a clutch of petitions that challenged certain provisions of the Delhi Sales Tax Act, and exceptions provided for tax exemption.
The bench, also comprising Justices Hemant Gupta, Surya Kant, M M Sundresh and Sudhanshu Dhulia, said that the court had gone into the issue in its judgment wherein it struck down the Maharashtra government’s decision to provide 16 per cent reservation for members of the Maratha community in jobs and admissions. “The view of Bhat, J. was expressly concurred by Rao, J. and Gupta, J. There was no dissent to the view,” the bench said.
The court said 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 Justices Banerjee, Surya Kant, Sundresh and Dhulia delivered one verdict, Justice Gupta delivered a separate verdict 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.”