Monday, 25 December 2017

Whether one judgment can have more than one ratio decidendi?

 It is clear that one judgment can have more than one ratio decidendi. This
was recognized early on by the Privy Council in an appeal from the Supreme Court
of New South Wales, in Commissioners of Taxation for the State of New South
Wales v. Palmer & Others, 1907 Appeal Cases 179 at 184. Lord Macnaghten put it
“… But it is impossible to treat a proposition which the court
declares to be a distinct and sufficient ground for its decision as a
mere dictum, simply because there is also another ground stated
upon which, standing alone, the case might have been determined.”
 In Jacobs v. London County Council, [1950] 1 All E.R. 737 at 741, the House
of Lords, after referring to some earlier decisions held, as follows:
“..However, this may be, there is, in my opinion, no justification
for regarding as obiter dictum a reason given by a judge for his
decision, because he has given another reason also. If it were a
proper test to ask whether the decision would have been the same
apart from the proposition alleged to be obiter, then a case which
ex facie decided two things would decide nothing. A good
illustration will be found in London Jewellers, Ltd., v.
Attenborough ([1934] 2 K.B. 206). In that case the determination of
one of the issues depended on how far the Court of Appeal was
bound by its previous decision in Folkes v. King ([1923] 1 K.B.
282), in which the court had given two grounds for its decision, the
second of which [as stated by Greer, L.J. ([1934] 2 K.B. 222), in
Attenborough’s case ([1934] 2 K.B. 206)] was that:
“….where a man obtains possession with authority to
sell, or to become the owner himself, and then sells, he
cannot be treated as having obtained the goods by
larceny by a trick.”
In Attenborough’s case ([1934] 2 K.B. 206) it was contended that,
since there was another reason given for the decision in Folkes’
case ([1923] 1 K.B. 282), the second reason was obiter, but Greer,
L.J., said ([1934] 2 K.B. 222) in reference to the argument of
“I cannot help feeling that if we were unhampered by
authority there is much to be said for this proposition
which commended itself to Swift, J., and which
commended itself to me in Folkes v. King ([1923] 1 K.B.
282), but that view is not open to us in view of the
decision of the Court of Appeal in Folkes v. King ([1923]
1 K.B. 282). In that case two reasons were given by all
the members of the Court of Appeal for their decision
and we are not entitled to pick out the first reason as the
ratio decidendi and neglect the second, or to pick out the
second reason as the ratio decidendi and neglect the first;
we must take both as forming the ground of the

So, also, in Cheater v. Cater ([1918] 1 K.B. 247) Pickford, L.J.,
after citing a passage from the judgment of Mellish, L.J., in Erskine
v. Adeane ((1873), 8 Ch. App. 756), said ([1918] 1 K.B. 252):
 “That is a distinct statement of the law and not a
dictum. It is the second ground given by the lord justice
for his judgment. If a judge states two grounds for his
judgment and bases his decision upon both, neither of
those grounds is a dictum.” 
Original Civil Jurisdiction
Writ Petition (C) No. 118 of 2016

Shayara Bano Vs Union of India and others.

Dated:August 22, 2017. 
Citation:(2017) 9 SCC 1
Read full judgment here: Click here

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