Reading of a judgment is an art, no doubt about this. Since we all are in the profession for decades and appearing before the various forums including the assessing authorities. But, the purpose of placing a judgment given by a Court has not been properly met with; this is because we are not well versed with the proper reading of the judgment. Always hurriedly we submit the copy of the judgment which gives no results. Thus, I have taken this opportunity of writing an article on “Reading a judgment is an Art”.

The important points are narrated hereunder:

1. The judgment should be read in full and complete.

2. Should not be depending solely on Case Note or Head Note.

Judgments are of two types:

1. Judgments purely based on facts and circumstances of a case within the scope of relevant laws out of which no new legal propositions can be made out except to follow the Law by any Court.

2. Judgments mainly based on Interpretative, Statutory and Constitutional Laws where challenged laws can be struck down by the Courts with new legal propositions. But, the Dynamics of Law does not mean that the Courts can make laws in a Country of Written Constitution prescribing separate powers.

The primary duty of the Courts is to uphold the laws in force. The Supreme Court or the High Courts are not exception. Judges are ought to be more careful in authoring words, expressions, interpretation of laws conjoining the facts and circumstances of a case on the touch stone of relevant laws, judicial pronouncements and Jurisprudential Principles.

For Example, MGRM Medicare Limited vs. Commercial Tax Officer (Int.), Abids Divn., Hyderabad and Another (19.07.2011 – APHC) case laid down basic dynamic principles of administrative powers within the ambit of the provisions of APVAT Act, 2005; in operative portion, the Honourable High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for the State of Telangana and State of Andhra Pradesh directed the Government to quash the GOMs No.1615 dated 31-08-2005. “A Schedule to an enactment forms an integral part of the said Act. It is only if the Schedule is amended following the procedure stipulated in section 79 of the VAT Act, or by way of a legislative exercise, would it be valid and not by mere issuance of a notification under section 76(2) of the VAT Act. It is not even the case of the respondents that the notification in G. O. Ms. No. 1615 is a legislative exercise. The power to remove difficulties under section 76(2) of the VAT Act, by issuance of an executive/administrative order, can neither nullify nor circumscribe entries in the Schedules to the VAT Act. (2011) 45 VST 47).This is one of the finest judgments.

A. Judgment should be read full and complete: One should remember that the judgment should be read right from the statement of facts/brief facts narrated in the case law (for understanding the facts on which the petitioner/appellant has knocked the doors of the Court);

(b) then to the discussion portion for example: principles and provisions of the Act/Law under which the matter carried before the Court;

(c) reference of case laws relied upon by both the parties: to understand the applicability of the said case laws in the case on hand;

(d) arguments of both sides: to understand the elucidation of the facts in their perspective.

(e) operative portion: i.e. the conclusive portion of the judgment by the judges.

B. Should not be depending solely on Case Note or Head Note: At times, we read only the case note or head note of the judgment, without going through the judgment in full, while advancing arguments before the Tribunals, High Courts, in this case, always there is a danger of non-understanding of the outcome of the judgment and the reliance placed on such judgment stating the head note/case note shall not help in rendering proper judgment, resultantly the justice what we sought for may not be available.

Patience is essence of reading the complete judgment. Judgment should not be read in a hurry to search the points favourable to the case on hand. Patient listening and reading is the finer points of the advocacy. Reading a judgment is research on the subject.

It is better to sound a note of warning in the words of an American Author, Mr. Frederick Bernays Wiener, which he has made in his useful book, “Effective Appellate Advocacy”, wherein he says that law digest should be used only “to orient the lawyer in unfamiliar fields of law or to supply him with citations to case which lead to further research.” It is not at all advisable to cite cases on the strength of annotation/case note/head note accepting them as authority.

The first principle to remember is that no two cases in the world are ever similar in all respects. There is always some difference between one situation and another, although they may both raise the spectacle of a seeming identity. So no two cases before the court are similar.

Conclusion: From the above discussion I have tried to elucidate finer points of Reading a judgment is an Art, because the facts of each case is different and the judgment of any Court or Forum shall apply to the extent of enunciation of the legal principles and law in force.

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Qualification: LL.B / Advocate
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Location: Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, IN
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