Why Lower Courts are bound by the decision of Higher Courts?


The Supreme Court is the highest authority in deciding any case.  Article 141 of the Indian Constitution states that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India. The legal terminology terms this principle as “stare decisis”. It comes from a Latin phrase i.e. “stare decisis et non quieta movere”. This basically means to stand by the decided matters. In India, we call it ‘precedent.’ When a case is decided on the basis of the earlier given judgment then that is known as precedent.

It is not necessary that all judgments should be taken as precedents. The cases which are decided by the Supreme Court are usually taken as precedents and are binding on the lower courts and that is termed as ‘binding precedents’.

The main characteristic of Article 141 which is important is that the principle laid down in the previous decision has to be kept in mind and not the facts of the case. Ratio decidendi is binding whereas obiter dicta are persuasive.

Features of Precedents

1. Decisions of the Supreme Court bind all the courts in India. 2. The judgment has to be read as a whole. The observation from the judgment has to be determined in the light of the questions presented before the court. 3. Judgment is used as a precedent only if it is based on deciding or resolving a question of law. 4. The Supreme Court’s ex-parte decisions are also binding in nature. Thus, We can use them as precedents. 5. Own decisions of the Supreme Court do not bind it. 6. Procedural irregularity and immateriality do not invalidate the binding nature of judgment. 7. A special leave petition is binding in nature.

Types of precedents

  1. Original and Declaratory precedent

Original precedents are those cases in which the question of law has not been decided before, and then in such cases, the decision of the judge forms the original precedent. An original precedent is a law that creates new rules and laws.

Declaratory precedent means those cases where we use the application of an existing rule of law. 2. Authoritative or Binding precedent

These are those decisions in which the judges should follow whether they approve it or not. In these types of precedents, the decision of the higher courts bind the lower courts.

3. Persuasive precedent

These precedents are not as binding as the authoritative precedents. These precedents mean that while making any judgment the judge has to consider these precedents and has to give higher weight to it. These types of precedents help in making a fair decision. The even lower court decision can play the role of persuasive precedent.

Advantages of Precedent

The precedents are helpful as they save time on the pre-decided issues. It also ensures that there is no contradiction among the different judgments of the higher courts so the lower courts can follow their decision unanimously. It eliminates the element of confusion. If all the judges will follow the same criteria for giving judgments than the probability of making a mistake will be less. It is unjust to give different judgments for similar situations.


To sum up, the process of giving any judgment on the basis of precedent is advantageous or disadvantageous to the country. Moreover, It is beneficial as pleaders do not have to plead for the issues of law which are already decided. Also, It is harmful to society as each case has its own facts and circumstances and any issue can’t be decided as per the previous decision without applying the legal mind.