Emerging trends in judgment writing introduced by Justice L Nageswara Rao

By K.Ramakanth Reddy

Hyderabad: Hon’ble Justice L. Nageswara Rao, as we know, is the present acting Judge of Supreme Court of India, who is the 7th person elevated directly from the Bar to the Hon’ble Supreme Court and was sworn in on May 13, 2016. Justice Rao was also a senior advocate and a former Additional Solicitor General of India who has proved his mettle in the legal fraternity through his remarkable advocacy and landmark judgements.

Noteworthy aspect

The most noteworthy aspect of the judgements of Justice Nageswara Rao is its crisp and point blank element which serves the purpose of the matter at hand with legal reasoning/ratio in lesser words. It is not incorrect to say all of his landmark judgements are short, straightforward and at the same detailed with reasoning which has completely changed the age old practise of lengthy judgements which is not easily comprehensible and handy to the laymen. Furthermore, the practise of short and straightforward judgements has also been adopted by the US Courts vividly.

A judgment is distinct from a formal order as it gives reasons for arriving at a conclusion. In United States it is called the ‘opinion,’ the explanation given by a Judge for the order finally proposed or made. The backlog of cases has put a great pressure on the Judges. It is no longer prudent to write a long and verbose judgment, with uncontrolled expressions and citations. The pressure of work and stress on most of the Judges today demands improving skills in writing judgments, which are brief, simple, and clear without compromising with the quality.

For instance, the remarkable judgements like Joseph Oncale V. Sundowner Offshore Services Inc, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the protection of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act 1964 against workplace discrimination “because of …. Sex” applied to harassment in the workplace between members of same sex. This case arose out of a suit for sex discrimination by a male oil rig worker who claimed that he was repeatedly subjected to sexual harassment by his male co-workers with the acquiescence of his employer. In Marbury v. Madison, this remains a single most important decision of John Marshall in American Constitutional Law. This landmark decision established that U.S. Constitution is actual “LAW” not just a statement of political principles; ideals and defined the boundary between the constitutionally separate Executive; Judicial branches of American form of Government. Similarly, judgments like Evans Vs. Newton, State of New York Vs. United States and Sweezy V. New Hampshire propounded by US Courts which has notably changed the legal standing of the country in their subject matter but at the same time decisions made of short length however not short in its content and context in any way. In the similar manner, UK courts have provided its judgements for instance, Somerset N. Stewart decided on 22-06-1772 a judgement which has established a significant legal precedent. It not only prohibited the removal of slaves from Britain but also effectively brought to end all the holding of slaves throughout the country is also known for its judgement short and upright verdict.

Justice L.Nageshwara Rao, in his judgments has not written only for the benefit of the parties.

Benefit of legal profession

It is also written for the benefit of legal profession, other judges and appellate Courts. The losing party is the primary focus of concern. The soul of Justice Nageswara Rao’s judgments are the reasons for arriving at the findings. These are also called ‘the opinion’ and there is no rigid rule, as to how a finding may be recorded. In his judgements, he believes the evidence or agrees with the argument and at the same time gives his reasons for such belief and agreement. “An elaborate argument does not always require elaborate answer” is what his judgements portray.

There are various judgements given by him where he clearly written the operative portion of the judgment, which pronounces his conclusion over the issues brought before him. Justice

Rao has provided clear and precise direction and the manner in which the directions have to be obeyed in conformity with the prayers made in the plaint/petitions. The object of good judgment is to conclude the dispute and not to leave the matter undecided. The judgments are leaving nothing to be brought back to the Court. The operative portion of the order should as far as possible self-executing and self-contained. Plain and simple language has always been appreciated in writing judgments. Brevity, simplicity and clarity are the hallmarks of the good judgment. The greatest of these is clarity.

For instance, in Mukesh Kumar & Anr. V State of Uttarakhand in a very precise manner a

Bench of Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Hemant Gupta observed that State governments are not bound to make reservations. Even the courts could not issue a mandamus directing States to provide reservations. There is no fundamental right which inheres in an individual to claim reservation in promotions.

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In the judgement, State of Madhya Pradesh v. Yogendra Singh Jadon Justice Rao has set aside a High Court order and held that inherent power under Section 482 of Cr.PC cannot be exercised where allegations are required to be proved in the Court of law.

Further, in Kerala State Beverages vs P P Suresh And Ors, the bench comprising of Justice Rao has in precise and clear terms overrules the Kerala High court and held that Government can change public policy keeping in mind the larger public interest.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 16th September 2019, in the matter of Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited, Represented by Managing Director (Admin. and HR) vs.

Sri C. Nagaraju & Anr. pronounced that a Disciplinary Authority is not bound by the judgment of the Criminal Court if the evidence that is produced in the Departmental Inquiry is different from that produced during the criminal trial. Even though a person is acquitted in a criminal court, that won’t stop the departmental enquiry against the delinquent officer. In the words of Justice Rao, it was held that- “The two proceedings, criminal and departmental, are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. In the disciplinary proceedings, the question is whether the Respondent is guilty of such conduct as would merit his removal from service or a lesser punishment, as the case may be, whereas in the criminal proceedings, the question is whether the offences registered against him are established, and if established, what sentence should be imposed upon him. The standard of proof, the mode of inquiry and the rules governing inquiry and trial in both the cases are significantly distinct and different.”

Tamil Nadu v Hemalathaa

In State of Tamil Nadu v Hemalathaa, Justice Rao laid down that High courts cannot modify or relax the instruction laid down by the states respective public service commission. In his words, “The Instructions issued by the Commission are mandatory, having the force of law and they have to be strictly complied with. Strict adherence to the terms and conditions of the Instructions is of paramount importance. The High Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution cannot modify/relax the Instructions issued by the Commission.”

In Solemn SK v State of West Bengal, in cases against doctors in a very unique manner, Justice

Rao suggested that this obligation of performing community service could be met with by a direction to the petitioner to plant trees. Accepting the suggestion made by the counsel for the petitioner & directed the petitioner to plant 100 trees within a period of one year as punishment.

In the judgement of Hindustan Sanitaryware and Industries Ltd vs State of Haryana13 in which Justice Rao was considering an appeal against Punjab and Haryana High Court order which had upheld the notification issued under Minimum Wages Act. Categorized unskilled employees as semiskilled & semi-skilled as skilled based on their experience for fixing/revising minimum wages is Ultra Vires.

In a division bench judgment by Justice Rao and Justice M R Shah in State bank of India v P.Soupramaniane has in a very precise and clear manner concluded the dispute of judging an offence involving moral turpitude. The court said that following tests that can be applied for judging an offence involving moral turpitude: “Whether the act leading to a conviction was such as could shock the moral conscience or society in general; Whether the motive which led to the act was a base one; Whether on account of the act having been committed the perpetrators could be considered to be of a depraved character or a person who was to be looked down upon by the society”.

It is further significant to note that the Supreme Court most recently on April 9, 2019 has very strongly and sternly reiterated in a latest, landmark and laudable judgment titled Anurag Soni v. State of Chhattisgarh15 authored by Justice MR Shah and headed by Justice L Nageswara Rao has reiterated in no uncertain terms that the consent for sexual intercourse obtained by a person by giving false promise of marriage would not excuse him from rape charges. All those men who dare to indulge in sex after giving false promise of marriage must now always bear it in mind that they will not be excused from rape charges as has been held in this most recent case. This commendable and notable ruling is bound to send a large and clear warning to all men that they cannot take women for granted and have sex with them by falsely promising to marry and then later reneging and escaping from all liabilities.

In Sau. Kamal Shivaji Pokarnekar v. The State of Maharashtra16 it was held by Justice Rao that –“Quashing of the criminal proceedings is called for only in a case where the complaint does not disclose any offence, or is frivolous, vexatious, or oppressive. If the allegations set out in the complaint do not constitute the offence of which cognizance has been taken by the Magistrate, it is open to the High Court to quash the same. At the initial stage of issuance of process it is not open to the Courts to stifle the proceedings by entering into the merits of the contentions made on behalf of the accused. Criminal complaints cannot be quashed only on the ground that the allegations made therein appear to be of a civil nature. If the ingredients of the offence alleged against the accused are prima facie made out in the complaint, the criminal proceeding shall not be interdicted.”

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In the case of Medical Council of India vs The Principal KMCT Medical College, Supreme

Court Bench headed by Justice SA Bobde and L.Nageshwara Rao held that remand by Government of India to the Medical Council of India for review does not impose any restriction on verification of deficiencies that had been pointed out earlier. The MCI, notwithstanding anything is competent to conduct the compliance to the set out standards and guidelines.

The bench comprising Justice SA Bobde and Justice L Nageswara Rao in State of Maharashtra vs. Sayyed Hassan Sayyed Subhan18 observed that there is no bar for prosecution under the IPC merely because the provisions in the FSS Act prescribe penalties.

The opposite view adopted by the high court has been set aside. The apex court bench differed with this view adopted by the high court that non-compliance of the provisions of the Act,

Rules or Regulations or orders cannot be subject matter of a prosecution under IPC. “There is no dispute that Section 55 of the FSS Act provides for penalty to be imposed for non compliance of the requirements of the Act, Rules or Regulations or orders issued there under by the Food Safety Officer. But, we are afraid that we cannot agree with the conclusion of the

High Court that non-compliance of the provisions of the Act, Rules or Regulations or orders cannot be the subject matter of a prosecution under IPC unless expressly or impliedly barred.

The High Court is clearly wrong in holding that action can be initiated against defaulters only under Section 55 of FSS Act or proceedings under Section 68 for adjudication have to be taken,” the bench said.

In Uttarakhand Transport Corporation vs Sukhveer Singh, authored by Justice Rao in very few words while upholding dismissal of a bus driver from service of Uttarakhand Transport Corporation, observed that acts of corruption/misappropriation cannot be condoned, even in cases where the amount involved is meagre.

If we analyse the judgements provided above the style of judicial writing is constantly changing. The Latinism and legal clichés are the days of past. It may not be wise to use metaphors and idioms, to prove a point. The judges like Justice L.Nageshwara Rao avoid using words or expression showing gender-bias and emphasis more on a controlled judgment without any legalese, sharp criticism, pinching comments, and sarcasm invokes respect to the court.

Short sentences and para phrasing, head notes and subheading, wherever it is necessary, is a recommended style of writing a judgment of Justice Rao. Brevity, simplicity and clarity have always been the watch words for effective judicial writing .It is better to avoid invidious examples, unnecessary quotations, and lecture.

The winner is not much interested in the reasons for success, as he is convinced of the righteousness of the cause. The looser, however, in the expensive litigation is entitled to have a candid explanation of the reasons for the decision. It is not only for exercise of any appellate right but also to uphold the intellectual integrity of the system of law, impartiality and logical reasoning. The lawyer is interested in the judgment as he understands the analysis and expositions of legal precedents and principles. The lawyers also examine the judgments for learning they provide, and for the reassurance of the quality of judiciary. They can easily distinguish, the lazy Judge, the Judge prone to errors in fact finding, the Judge having difficulty in understanding of laws of evidence, or the Judge, who has difficulties with complex propositions of law.

Legal problems

The other Judges lower in hierarchy, facing common legal problems or in the same Court are also interested in the decisions. The judge is also aware that his decision may be reported and that it may establish a legal principle, binding, until it is set aside by the appellate Court. The best Judges perform their reasoning opinion honestly to the best of their ability without undue concern that the appellate Court may find error or reach a different conclusion and this is what Justice L.Nageshwara Rao has been exactly doing so far with lesser words and point blank approach which eventually helps the litigants, lawyers, other judges and public at large.

K.Ramakanth Reddy Advocate, Telangana High Court & Supreme Court, Senior Standing Counsel for Maulana Azad, National Urdu University & Standing Counsel for NCTE, Sun Networks Mobile: 9849029276.

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