The recent oral observations by the vacation bench of the Apex Court in Nupur Sharma’s case has stirred a commotion amongst intellectuals on the sanctity of the pungent oral observations made by Court during hearing especially when these observations do not find place in the final judgment pronounced by the Court. It is a matter of intense debate whether the Court should express their reaction orally or should express the same in their written judgment. More importantly, would not the much publicized oral observations prejudice her case, when it comes up for trial in the lower judiciary?
The matter is sub-judice and it would be improper to comment on what happened in the Courtroom but the instantaneous reaction & outburst of the Court has met with criticism in the press and social media and there is widespread resentment amongst the masses.
Question arises as to whether the oral observations are part of the integral part of the judgement or for that purpose only the written judgment has legal sanctity. Legally speaking, the reasoning given by the court in order to support its decision constitutes a judgment. The term ‘Judgment’ has been defined under sec. 2(9) of the Civil Procedure Code as under:
“Judgment means the statement given by the judge on the ground of a decree or order.
A judgment is said to be the final decision of the court on the said matter before the court in the form of suit towards parties and to the world at large by formal pronouncement in open court. Order 20, Rule 4(2) says that a judgment shall contain a concise statement of the case, the points for determination, the decision thereon and all the reasons for such decision.”
Thus, reasons are an integral part of the judgment and any judgment bereft of reasoning is no judgment in the eyes of law. Since the judgment is silent on the observations made orally in the open Court, the same are not a part of the judgment and are not binding on the parties or subordinate judiciary. It is indisputable that the opinion of the judiciary is reflected only through judgments and orders and not through oral observations.
A judge only speaks through his judgments and the oral comments made by judges during a hearing routine hearing may show the mind of the judges but are of no consequences until they form part of the written & signed order. Therefore, Oral observations or comments made in the Court during hearing have no sanctity in law. They are at best ‘loose talk’ of a judge which seriously undermines the constitutional authority and trust reposed in him. It is apposite to refer to the article by George Mikes titled “Professional Deformities” which asserted that judges should avoid “sermons on the mount”. Judicial propriety demands that a judge while conducting his proceedings in Court should speak as sparse as possible in the court room. Casual speech or sermonizing is against established judicial conduct. The sanctity of the judicial process has to be protected and well-reasoned & well-researched views of the judge should be reflected in the judgments. It is therefore imperative that the judges should keep away from participating in this debate in the courtroom and should perform its duty only through the medium of objective judicial pronouncements and not through empty sermons. This principle flows not only from well-established cannons of judicial etiquette but also from the very foundations of the constitutional faith reposed in a judge.