It is unfortunate that at the Supreme Court level counsel cite judgments which have been overruled, remarked the Supreme Court recently while disposing of an appeal.
The bench headed by Justice Deepak Gupta made this observation in Raj Kumar vs. State of UP when the counsel cited various judgments to support the contention he raised on behalf of the accused that when there is a marginal variation from the standards prescribed, the courts should give benefit of doubt to the accused.
The counsel had cited the judgment in Karunan vs. Food Inspecter which the bench found that it was overruled by the Division Bench of the High Court in Food Inspector, Palghat Municipality vs. Karingarappully Co-op. Milk Society Ltd. Similarly three judgments relied upon by him of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, was found to have been overruled by full bench of the High Court in Sate of Punjab vs. Teja Singh. In this context, the bench, also comprising of Justice Aniruddha Bose said:
We are constrained to point out that out of the judgments cited by the learned counsel above, several have been overruled.....It is unfortunate that at the Supreme Court level counsel cite judgments which have been overruled.
Earlier also, the Supreme Court has expressed its displeasure about lawyers citing overruled judgments. In State Of Orissa vs Nalinikanta Muduli (2005), it was observed that it is lawyer's duty not to cite an overruled judgment. Justice Arijit Pasayat had observed thus:
"Members of the bar are officers of the Court. They have a bounden duty to assist the Court and not mislead it. Citing judgment of a Court which has been overruled by a larger Bench of the same High Court or this Court without disclosing the fact that it has been overruled is a matter of serious concern....All this shows that the matter was dealt with very casually.... It was certainly the duty of the Counsel...to bring to the notice of the Court that the decision relied upon by the petitioner before the High Court has been overruled by this Court. It was the duty of the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner before the High Court not to cite an overruled judgment....We can only express our anguish at the falling standards of professional conduct."
In Sunita Pandey and Ors. vs. State of Uttarakhand, the Uttarakhand High Court pulled up a lawyer for saying that he was ignorant of a judgment of the Supreme Court. It observed thus
A lawyer is supposed to have the knowledge of a judgment delivered by the Hon'ble Apex Court, which is the law of land, but the reply of counsel is not acceptable that he is not aware of the judgment of the Hon'ble Apex Court. A lawyer cannot make excuse for unawareness of a particular judgment of the Hon'ble Apex Court and also cannot be permitted to cite a judgment, which has already been overruled. A lawyer is known for its legal acumen.
In Ashok Kumar Singh vs. VIth Additional Sessions Judge, the Allahabad High Court had also raised similar concern. It had said:
It is also unfortunate that responsible members of the Bar are citing overruled decisions which may also result in obtaining wrong judgments from the Court. It is expected that in future the members of the Bar will take care in citing decisions and will at least not cite overruled decisions.