Every walk of human life needs self-discipline in the like manner every judicial decision should be based on judicial discipline. The judicial discipline is a vital factor in adjudication proceedings. The adjudicating authorities should be bound by the precedent judgments of the higher authorities in the identical cases. Then only the judicial decision would be just, fair, right, substantial and universally acceptable. The principles of Natural Justice and judicial discipline are both sides of the same coin in adjudication proceedings.

Unless these cited principles are followed in adjudication proceedings the resulted judicial decision will not be free from bias and prejudice. The judicial discipline is self-discipline and it is an inbuilt mechanism in the system itself in adjudication proceedings. This is the minimum discipline and decorum to be maintained by judicial fraternity.

There is laid down procedure that filed formations and adjudicating authorities are bound by the precedent judgments and higher appellate orders in the similar litigation but unfortunately, it is observed that in certain situations, the field officers and lower adjudicating authorities are not following the precedent judgments or orders of the higher appellate authorities while deciding the similar issues and violating the principles of judicial discipline in adjudication proceedings.

Case Laws:

The Hon’ble Apex Court in the Case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Mohammed Nooh, reported in [1958(1) SCR-595, wherein it was held that justice should be done in a common sense point of view stating that ‘ I see no reason why is a narrow or ultra technical restriction to be placed on them, justice should, in my opinion be administered in Tribunals or Courts in a common sense liberal way and by broad based to the human value other than of narrow and restricted consideration hedged around with hell and technically. The above principles laid down by the Apex Court needs to be followed by all the subordinate Courts while interpreting statute.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Union of India v. Kamlakshi Finance Corporation Ltd, reported in 1991(35) E.L.T.433(S.C.), was held that “The adjudicating Officer acts as a quasi-judicial authority. He is bound by the law of precedent and binding effect of the order passed by the higher authority or Tribunal of superior jurisdiction. If his order is thought to be erroneous by the Department, the Department can as well prefer appeal in terms of the statutory provisions contained in the Central Excise Act, 1944.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Hari Singh v. State of Haryana, reported in 1993 (66) E.L.T.23 (S.C.), it was held that “It is true that the system of the justice which is being administered by the Courts, one of the basic principles which has to kept in view, is that Courts of co-ordinate jurisdiction, should have consistent opinions in respect of an identical set of facts or on question of law. If Courts express different opinion on the identical sets of facts or question of law while exercising the same jurisdiction, then instead of achieving harmony in the judicial system, it will lead to judicial anarchy.

The Hon’ble Apex Court in the Case of Gammon India Ltd. v. Commissioner of Customs, Mumbai reported in 2011 (269) ELT 289 (SC), where it was held that two Tribunals should not take differently divergent views, which will create judicial uncertainty in declaring the law involved in identical issues. This is a fundamental principle which every presiding officer of a judicial forum ought to know, for consistency in interpretation of law alone can lead to public confidence in our judicial system. A subordinate court is bound by the enunciation of law made by the superior courts. A Coordinate Bench of a Court cannot pronounce judgment contrary to declaration of law made by another Bench. It can only refer it to a larger Bench if it disagrees with the earlier pronouncement.” We respectfully concur with these observations and are confident that all the Courts and various Tribunals in the country shall follow these salutary observations in letter and spirit.”

The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Commissioner of C. Ex, v. Novapan Industries Ltd., held that “It is settled law that the department having accepted the principles laid down in the earlier case cannot be permitted to take a contra stand in the subsequent cases”.

Conclusion: Thus, in the adjudication proceedings the judicial precedents of higher appellate authorities, Courts are binding on lower authorities on identical question of law. In the present scenario of adjudicating proceedings there is frequent violation of judicial discipline despite a clear and specific/authoritative pronouncement to this effect by the higher authorities. Therefore, there is need of suitable legislative amendment in the tax laws so that judicial discipline can be restored in adjudication proceedings. Consequently, the arbitrary orders in the identical decided issues can be controlled and give relief to the taxpayers or appellants.

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  1. Nem Singh says:

    There is need to explain the word ” identical” before reaching the conclusion of following the judicial decision by adjudicating authorities. If there are differebce then even it has to be explained and how the decision is folliwed. Some members of the judicial bodies in conclusion para explaine their views that ” “I am duty bound to accepted the decision relied upon…. ” is not good being an adjudicator.

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April 2021