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The Art of reading a Judgement

Mr. C SANJEEVA RAO 
on 11 June 2020

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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. While doing a matter before the Hon'ble APVAT Appellate Tribunal, during which Honourable Chairman had posed a question to read the operating portion of the relied on judgment. For a few seconds I was thinking, what the Hon'ble Chairman asked for, immediately gone through that judgment and the relevant paragraph I have read out. Out of my personal experience, what I have faced, 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.
The Art of reading a Judgement

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, M/s. Inox Air Products Limited vs. Assistant Commissioner (CT), Hyderabad (W.P. No.13418/2014 dated 29.10.2014 - APHC) case laid down basic dynamic principles of levy of tax on medical oxygen I.P. under the ambit of entry 88 of Schedule IV of APVAT Act, 2005 read with section 3(b)(1) of Drugs Act; in operative portion, the Honourable High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad for the State of Telangana and State of Andhra Pradesh held that ‘As medical oxygen I.P. and liquid nitrogen are used in the treatment and mitigation of disorders in human beings, and as they are generally understood in the trade to be surgical aids, both these substances would fall under the definition of drug under section 3(b)(1) of Drugs Act, and consequently, fall under entry 88 of Schedule IV of the Act. View from any angle, both medical oxygen I.P. and liquid nitrogen fall under entry 88 of Schedule IV, and are liable to tax only at 4%/5% and not at 12.5% or 14.5%. So, the impugned orders are set aside (2014 VIL 339 AP).This is one of the finest judgments. This judgment is upheld by the Honourable Supreme Court of India in The State of Andhra Pradesh vs. Linde India Ltd.(Civil Appeal No.2230 of 2020 dated 13-04-2020).

A. Judgment should be read in full and complete:

(a) One should remember that the judgment should be read right from the statement of facts/brief facts/back ground of the case narrated in the case law (for understanding the facts on which the petitioner/appellant has knocked at 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 to 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 headnote 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 headnote/case note shall not help in rendering proper judgment, in other words, resultantly the justice what we sought for may not be available.

Patience is the 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 advocacy or practice. 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.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are for the educative information and does not constitute or purport to be an advice or opinion in any manner. The information provided is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship and is not for advertising or soliciting. The author does not intend in any matter to solicit work through this piece. He is not responsible for any error or mistake or omission in this piece of information or for any action taken or not taken based on the contents of this material.

Wish you a Happy Learning!


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