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Cut, Copy And Paste Technology In Judgments Deprecated No Substitute For Substantive Reasoning - Unreasoned And Non-Speaking Orders Not Sustainable

It is undisputed that Cut, Copy & Paste is a laudable method for reducing transcription errors in copying written arguments, citations and quotations in the judgments of the Courts.

However, a problem arises when it is used to lift verbatim earlier orders/arguments and pass judgments/orders without application of mind and without giving proper reasons for passing the order forgetting that judgment and fact-finding are solely in the province of the court. Decisions are evidence of judicial thinking & astute/prudent reasoning.

It is true that the mechanics of judicial writing and the high volume of work compel repeating, recycling and restating findings of fact and conclusions of law but the same cannot be violative of �independent decision-making/ judicial reasoning.

It is common knowledge that the Officers in State/ Central administration, the Assessing Officers under Direct & Indirect Taxes, Subordinate Judiciary, the various Tribunals & sometimes even the High Court indulge in passing orders using 'cut & paste' technology bereft of application of mind & judicial reasoning making the orders illegal & unsustainable. The Apex Court recently on March 5, 2021 in Civil Appeal No 821 of 2021 in the case of Union Public Service Commission vs. Bibhu Prasad Sarangi and others has cautioned against misuse of the ' Cut & Paste Technology' thereby making the orders susceptible to being struck down for non- application of mind.

The brief facts of the case are the appellant UPSC had filed a Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) wherein the Tribunal had directed the appellant to reconsider the case of the respondent for promotion to the IAS for vacancies for 2015, 2016 & 2017 and to grant consequential benefits.

While passing the impugned order the High Court just extracted portions of the judgment of the Tribunal and concluded that the Tribunal has elaborately discussed the law� while issuing directions. The High Court finally held that the Tribunal has not committed any jurisdictional error and no interference is warranted.

The Apex Court was irked that there has been no independent application of mind & judicial reasoning to the controversy by the High Court & observed in strong words & warned the courts thus:
Cutting, copying and pasting from the judgment of the Tribunal, which is placed in issue before the High Court, may add to the volume of the judgment. The size of judicial output does not necessarily correlate to a reasoned analysis of the core issues in a case. Technology enables judges to bring speed, efficiency and accuracy to judicial work. But a prolific use of the �cut-copy-paste� function should not become a substitute for substantive reasoning which, in the ultimate analysis, is the defining feature of the judicial process.

The Apex Court realized that Judges are hard pressed for time as Judiciary is facing acute shortage of judicial officers with fewer fresh appointments, the ever increasing vacancies and mounting huge pendency in all Courts clogging the entire Judicial System. However, the Apex Court reprimanded the High Court for not giving a 'Reasoned Judgment' and held that Reasoning is the very soul of a good Judgment & held thus:

Crisp reasoning is perhaps the answer. Doing what the High Court has done in the present case presents a veneer of judicial reasoning, bereft of the substance which constitutes the heart of the judicial process. Reasons constitute the soul of a judicial decision. Without them one is left with a shell. The shell provides neither solace nor satisfaction to the litigant. We are constrained to make these observations since what we have encountered in this case is no longer an isolated aberration. This has become a recurring phenomenon.

The Apex Court went on to direct the National Judicial Academy, which imparts training to the subordinate judiciary to take up the job and instill the Judicial virtues of ' Reasoning & Communication Skills' as how judges communicate in their judgments is a defining characteristic of the judicial process.

The Court asserted that the judges ought to be trained for both disposal and quality of Judgment as ''the quality of justice brings legitimacy to the judiciary. The Apex Court, holding the High Court having not passed the judgment as a reasoned order which suffered from non-application of mind, set aside the impugned judgment and order of the High Court.

It would be trite to refer to the case of the Apex Court in the case of The Secretary & Curator, Victoria Memorial v. Howrah Ganatantrik Nagrik Samity and ors., JT 2010(2)SC 566 which categorically held that an order without valid reasons cannot be sustained as to give reasons is the rule of natural justice. Highlighting this rule the Court at para 31 to 33 observed as under:

31. It is a settled legal proposition that not only administrative but also judicial order must be supported by reasons, recorded in it. Thus, while deciding an issue, the Court is bound to give reasons for its conclusion. It is the duty and obligation on the part of the Court to record reasons while disposing of the case.

The hallmark of an order and exercise of judicial power by a judicial forum is to disclose its reasons by itself and giving of reasons has always been insisted upon as one of the fundamentals of sound administration justice - delivery system, to make known that there had been proper and due application of mind to the issue before the Court and also as an essential requisite of principles of natural justice. The giving of reasons for a decision is an essential attribute of judicial and judicious disposal of a matter before Courts, and which is the only indication to know about the manner and quality of exercise undertaken, as also the fact that the Court concerned had really applied its mind.
  • Vide State of Orissa Vs. Dhaniram Luhar (JT 2004(2) SC 172 and
  • State of Rajasthan Vs. Sohan Lal & Ors. JT 2004 (5) SCC 338:2004 (5) SCC 573

32. Reason is the heartbeat of every conclusion. It introduces clarity in an order and without the same, it becomes lifeless. Reasons substitute subjectivity by objectivity. Absence of reasons renders the order indefensible/unsustainable particularly when the order is subject to further challenge before a higher forum.
  • Vide Raj Kishore Jha Vs. State of Bihar & Ors. AIR 2003 SC 4664;
  • Vishnu Dev Sharma Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. (2008) 3 SCC 172;
  • Steel Authority of India Ltd. Vs. Sales Tax Officer, Rourkela I Circle & Ors. (2008) 9 SCC 407;
  • State of Uttaranchal & Anr. Vs. Sunil Kumar Singh Negi AIR 2008 SC 2026;
  • U.P.S.R.T.C. Vs. Jagdish Prasad Gupta AIR 2009 SC 2328;
  • Ram Phal Vs. State of Haryana & Ors. (2009) 3 SCC 258;
  • Mohammed Yusuf Vs. Faij Mohammad & Ors. (2009) 3 SCC 513; and
  • State of Himachal Pradesh Vs. Sada Ram & Anr. (2009) 4 SCC 422

33. Thus, it is evident that the recording of reasons is principle of natural justice and every judicial order must be supported by reasons recorded in writing. It ensures transparency and fairness in decision making. The person who is adversely affected may know, as why his application has been rejected.

It is relevant that Non recording of reasons renders the order unsustainable. The Apex Court in the case of Chandana Impex Pvt. Ltd. Vs. Commissioner of Customs, New Delhi , 2011(269)E.L.T. 433 (S.C.) (para 8) has held as under :

8..............the High Court should have examined each question formulated in the appeal with reference to the material taken into consideration by the Tribunal in support of its finding thereon and given its reasons for holding that question is not a substantial question of law. It needs to be emphasised that every litigant, who approaches the court for relief is entitled to know the reason for acceptance or rejection of his prayer, particularly when either of the parties to the lis has a right of further appeal. Unless the litigant is made aware of the reasons which weighed with the court in denying him the relief prayed for, the remedy of appeal will not be meaningful. It is that reasoning, which can be subjected to examination at the higher forums.''

It is apposite to refer to the Apex Court in State of Orissa Vs. Dhaniram Luhar (2004) 5 SCC 568 wherein the Apex Court reiterating that reason is the heart beat of every conclusion and without the same; it becomes lifeless, observed thus:

8.......Right to reason is an indispensable part of a sound judicial system; reasons at least sufficient to indicate an application of mind to the matter before court. Another rationale is that the affected party can know why the decision has gone against him. It is relevant that in State of U.P. v. Battan and Ors.(2001) 10 SCC 607, the Apex Court held as under:(SCC p.608, para 4)

4.The High Court has not given any reasons for refusing to grant leave to file appeal against acquittal. ...The manner in which appeal against acquittal has been dealt with by the High Court leaves much to be desired. Reasons introduce clarity in an order. On plainest consideration of justice, the High Court ought to have set forth its reasons, howsoever brief, in its order. The absence of reasons has rendered the High Court order not sustainable.

This judgment of the Apex Court is a warning to the judges/ officers who do not give reasoning behind their Judgments/ Orders. For any order to be sustained in judicial hierarchy, it is imperative that it should be based on Proper Reasoning & should necessarily be a 'Speaking Order'.

Written By: Inder Chand Jain
Ph no: 8279945021, Email: [email protected]

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