The Supreme Court by a majority of 3:2 found that there is apparent conflict between a 7 judge bench decision in Shirur Mutt (1954) and a 5 judge bench decision in Durgah Committee, Ajmer (1962). A 9 para long judgment authored by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Khanwilkar and Indu Malhotra constitutes the majority judgment and Justices Nariman and Chandrachud dissented vide a detailed dissenting judgment authored by Justice Nariman.
While I do not agree with the majority judgment in the Sabarimala judgment, the reference to a larger bench in a review petition by the majority judgment is unclear and opens a pandora's box. Let me state the reasons why –
In my view, the logic behind reference to a larger bench on an assumption that in future the matter may be referred to a larger bench does not inspire confidence and is not the correct manner to refer constitutional issues of such importance to larger benches. If at all, in its review jurisdiction, the majority felt that a need arises for reviewing the judgment, it should have done that but interestingly the judgment is completely silent on this aspect. There is no finding on the correctness of the Sabarimala judgment. It is also debatable that whether the Sabarimala judgment still carries the force of a precedent or stand suspended till the larger bench decides as the same issue decided by it also stands referred to the larger bench.
Pertinent to note that the 7 judge bench, if so constituted, reserves its power to remit back the matter for vague terms of reference as well as for the reason that the reference is not required. Till it is constituted, fingers crossed!
Views Are Personal Only.
(Author is a practicing Lawyer at Supreme Court of India)
[The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of LiveLaw and LiveLaw does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same]