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"Judgment" is defined as any decision given by a court on a question question or issue between the parties to a proceeding properly before court. It is also defined as the decision or the sentence of a court in a legal proceeding along with the reasoning of a judge which leads him to his decision. The term "judgment" is loosely used as judicial opinion or decision.

Official Definition

The term "judgment" is defined under section 2(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 (CPC) as a statement given by a judge on the grounds of a decree or order. In the landmark case of Surendra Singh v. State of U.P.,[1] Justice Vivian Bose succinctly defined a judgment as "the final decision of the court intimated to the parties and to the world at large by formal 'pronouncement' or 'delivery' in open court." The individual against whom such a judgment is issued is referred to as the judgment-debtor.[2]

Justice Roslyn Atkinson of the Supreme Court of Queensland identified four fundamental purposes of a written judgment:[3]

i. To spell out judges own thoughts;

ii. To explain your decision to the parties;

iii. To communicate the reasons for the decision to the public; and

iv. To provide reasons for an appeal court to consider.

The aforementioned purposes underscore the significance of written judgments in the legal system. By fulfilling these objectives, judgments contribute to the fair and impartial administration of justice, enhancing public confidence in the legal process.

Elements of a judgment

A well-crafted judgment should encapsulate a concise summary of the case, clearly identify the specific points for determination, present the court's decision on each point, and provide comprehensive reasoning for those decisions. The Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) mandates that the judge must sign and date the judgment while pronouncing it in open court.[4] Further, Rule 6-A of Order 20 stipulates that the concluding paragraph of the judgment must explicitly state the precise relief granted to the parties.[5]

In the landmark case of Balraj Taneja v. Sunil Madan,[6] the Supreme Court emphatically asserted that a mere declaration of "Suit decreed" or "Suit dismissed" is insufficient to constitute a valid judgment. Instead, the judge must meticulously outline the entire reasoning process that led to the decision, ensuring transparency and providing a clear basis for understanding the court's determination.

Types of judgments:

On the basis of jurisdiction - Judgments can either be domestic or foreign.


A domestic judgment is a judgment given by an Indian court, as has been discussed in the aforementioned sections. All types of domestic judgments are enforceable in India in accordance with Sections 36 to 74 and Order 21 of the CPC, within 12 years from the date of their pronouncement.[7]


A foreign judgment is a ruling issued by a court located outside of India, not established or maintained by the Indian government's authority. To be enforceable in India, a foreign judgment must be considered conclusive, meaning it is final and binding on the parties involved. The criteria for determining conclusiveness are outlined in Section 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure.[8] A foreign judgment is considered conclusive for any matter directly decided between the same parties or between parties claiming through or from them, unless the judgment:

Was not issued by a court with the appropriate jurisdiction to handle the case;

Was not decided on the merits of the case, meaning it did not address the substance of the legal issues involved;

Appears, on the surface, to be based on an erroneous understanding of international law or a refusal to recognize the applicable laws of India;

Was obtained through proceedings that violated the principles of natural justice, which are the fundamental principles of fairness and impartiality;

Was obtained through fraudulent means;

Supports a claim founded on a violation of any law in force in India;

On the basis of reporting : Judgments can either be reportable or non reportable.


Reportable judgments are judgments which the Court passing the judgment is of the opinion is of significance for establishing or clarifying legal principles. The reportable judgments find their way into official law reporters. Reportable judgments are reported by the publishers (or database in case of web edition of judgment) that use specific formats as a part of editing. The format would have case notes, head notes, catch words etc. It is categorized conveniently so that the concerned researcher can look up other cases with same head note or other related editorial material. However, these case notes, head notes, catch words etc. are not part of the judgment.[9]


Non-reportable judgments are the ones that the Court passing the judgment does not consider to be of significant for establishing or clarifying legal principles. These are not published by official law reporters. However, they are as valid as reported judgments. Such judgments usually deal with clear-cut applications of well-established laws and don't bring any new legal principles to the table.[9]

Legal Provisions relating to judgments:

Pronouncement of judgments

The efficient and effective functioning of the judicial system hinges on the timely delivery of judgments. However, undue delays in judgment delivery have become a persistent challenge, causing significant distress to litigants and undermining public trust in the legal process.[10] The Supreme Court in the case of Balaji Baliram Mupade v. State of Maharashtra addressed this critical issue.[10]

In this case, the Court examined a judgment issued by the High Court, where the operative portion of the order was pronounced but the detailed reasoning for the decision was delayed by approximately nine months. The Supreme Court, upon examining Order 20, Rules 1, 4, and 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), emphasized the importance of prompt judgment delivery and the detrimental effects of extended delays.

The Court observed that undue delay in providing the reasoning behind a judicial order severely prejudices the aggrieved party, hindering their ability to effectively challenge the merits of the decision in a higher forum. Additionally, succeeding parties are unable to fully benefit from the litigation outcomes when judgments are unduly delayed.

Consequently, the Supreme Court set aside the High Court's order and remanded the matter for an early judgment. This decision serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of judicial expediency and the need to uphold the principles of fairness and timely justice.

Copies of judgment

Once the judgment is pronounced the certified copies of that particular judgment should be immediately made available to the parties on payment of costs as specified, by the party applying for such copy, of such charges as may be specified in the rules and orders made by the High Court (H.C.) Such a rule is specified in Order XX Rule 6-B of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.[11]

Review of judgment

Review of judgment is the substantive power of review by the court mentioned in Section 114 of the Code of Civil Procedure.[12] The limitations and conditions on which the power of review can be exercised are provided in Order 47 of the Civil Procedure Code. [13]The Order contains nine rules which impose some condition for the review.

The power to review is conferred by law.

Difference between a judgment and decree

Decree always follows a judgement. It contains the outcome of the suit and conclusively determines the rights of the parties with regard to the issues in dispute in the suit.[14] After passing the decree, the suit stands disposed of since the rights of the parties are finally determined by the court.

Difference between a judgment and an order

While a judgment is passed as the court’s opinion on the suit, orders can be passed at any time by the court, in writing or orally. The definition of Order in the Civil Procedure Code excludes decrees, which are final.[15] Orders are directions by the court but, unlike decrees, they do not assign rights to the parties. They are a ‘formal expression’ of the court’s direction. For example, interim orders may direct the parties to do or prohibit them from doing anything while the original suit is still pending. Orders cannot state that a particular suit is disposed of. Judgments can be given on an order passed by the court. Orders of the court cannot be appealed, unless expressly provided for. A Judgement can also be given on the grounds of, or on an order.

Precedential value of a judgment

The precedential value of a judgment holds significant weight in the Indian legal system. As stipulated by Article 141 of the Constitution of India, the law declared by the Supreme Court is binding on all courts within the territory of India. [16] This principle, known as the doctrine of precedent, mandates that courts adhere to previous decisions of the Supreme Court within well-defined limits.

The cornerstone of this principle lies in the concept of "ratio decidendi," which refers to the legal reasoning or principle upon which a court's decision rests.[17] When the material facts of a case are identical to those of a previous case decided by the Supreme Court, the ratio decidendi of the previous case must be applied to ensure consistency in the administration of justice.

In contrast to binding precedents, courts must exercise caution regarding "obiter dictum," which are statements made by the court in a judgment that are not essential to the decision. While obiter dicta may carry persuasive value due to the reputation of the judge, the eminence of the court, or the circumstances in which it was pronounced, they do not possess any binding force on future courts.[18]

The obligation to follow the law declared by the Supreme Court is paramount, and judgments must be interpreted in the context of the specific questions that arose for consideration in the case. In instances where a Supreme Court order is not preceded by a detailed judgment, its precedential value may be diminished, as the issue at hand may not have been categorically addressed.

While an order of the Supreme Court is binding on the parties to that particular order, it cannot serve as a precedent for subsequent cases if it was brief and primarily intended to resolve the dispute involved in the specific case.[19] Similarly, if the Supreme Court granted relief under Article 142 of the Constitution of India, this does not empower High Courts to issue similar orders without the necessary authority under Article 142.[20]

Appearance in official databases

Supreme Court

A Supreme Court Judgment can be retrieved from the official website of the Court by filling in either the case number [a specific number allotted to the case after it is admitted in the court by the judge; it is an alphanumeric character where the alphabets represent the case type], diary number [a specific number allotted to the case before it is admitted by the court], date of judgment, judges names or parties names.

The Supreme Court of India has made accessing court judgments easier for citizens by launching the e-SCR (Supreme Court Reporter) system. This online repository provides free access to reported judgments of the Supreme Court, making them available at the user's fingertips. The portal features a user-friendly "free text" search engine that enables quick and easy retrieval of relevant judgments. e-SCR was launched on January 2, 2023, and has been instrumental in enhancing public access to judicial information.

The Digital SCR is an official law report of the Supreme Court Judgments in India, in which the judgments are produced in digital and open-access format. It pioneers a fortnightly release schedule, enabling the swift dissemination of the latest judgment. Secondly, it exclusively publishes a report in digital form, effectively eliminating print production. Thirdly, an intuitive, user-friendly website is being crafted, and designed to optimise navigation and enhance user experience.

Vernacular Judgment

The Supreme Court Vidhik Anuvaad Software (SUVAS) is an AI-powered tool designed specifically for the legal domain. It can currently translate English judicial documents, orders, and judgments into nine vernacular languages and vice versa.[21] This marks a significant step forward in the integration of artificial intelligence into the judicial system. At present more than 36000 Supreme Court judgments are available on eSCR. More than 11000 in Hindi and together more than 1700 judgments have been translated in other regional languages (Tamil, Punjabi, Marathi, Gujarati, Odiya, Malayalam, Bengali, Telugu, Kannada, Assamese, Nepali, Urdu, Garo, Khasi and Konkani).[22]

Research that engages with Judgment

Integrated Database of Judgments by Aakanksha Mishra, DAKSH [23]- Over the past few years, technology has demonstrated its role in improving efficiency, transparency, and access to laws in India. DAKSH has explored the idea of a single source for laws to consolidate the various legislations across India in its white paper Single Source for Laws. An integral component of access to the law is the accessibility of decisions and judgments rendered by the courts. The creation of an integrated database of decisions of all the courts in India which will serve as an authentic source of case law is an urgent necessity in this context. This paper, the sixth in the series of White Papers on the Next Generation Justice Platform explores the possibility of an integrated database of judgments. This paper explores the need for access to an ‘authentic source’ of court decisions in the Indian context, the current scenario in India and how such a database should be created.

An integrated database can facilitate not only easy public accessibility of judgments but also aid the judiciary in applying the law of the land uniformly, and in improving the judicial process. It also recommends some preparatory steps like the adoption of neutral citations, uniform categorisation of cases, standardising metadata, transition to machine-readable formats, etc., which will have to be undertaken to exploit the full potential of technology.


  1. Surendra Singh v. State of U.P. , AIR 1954 SC 194
  2. Section 2 (10), Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
  3. Roslyn Atkinson J, "Judgment Writing" at Magistrates Conference, Gold Coast, March 21, 2002, available at https://www.jstor.org/stable/45163393?seq=9(last visited 19.11.2023).
  4. Order 20, Rule 1, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
  5. Order 20, Rule 6A, Code of Civil Procedure (CPC), 1908.
  6. Balraj Taneja v. Sunil Madan, AIR 1999 SC 3381
  7. Sections 36 to 74, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908; Order 21, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  8. Section 13, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Sivakumar, S. “JUDGMENT OR JUDICIAL OPINION: HOW TO READ AND ANALYSE.” Journal of the Indian Law Institute, vol. 58, no. 3, 2016, pp. 273–312. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/45163393. (last accessed 19.11.2023)
  10. 10.0 10.1 Balaji Baliram Mupade v. State of Maharashtra, 2020 SCC Online SC 893
  11. Order XX, Rule 6-B, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  12. Section 114, Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  13. Order 47, Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
  14. Section 2(2), Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
  15. S 2(14) of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908
  16. Article 141, Constitution of India, 1949.
  17. Career Institute Educational Society v Om Shree Thakurji Educational Society, 2023 SCC OnLine SC 586.
  18. Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. v Meena Variyal & Ors, (2007) 5 SCC 428
  19. Secunderabad Club v CIT, 2023 INSC 736.
  20. State of Punjab v. Surinder Kumar, (1992) 1 SCC 489.
  21. Supreme Court of India, Press Release, 25/11/2019, available at https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/Press/press%20release%20for%20law%20day%20celebratoin.pdf. (last accessed at 19.11.2023)
  22. Supreme Court of India, Achievements and New Initiatives, 2022-2023, available at https://main.sci.gov.in/pdf/LU/16112023_122034.pdf (last accessed at 19.11.2023).
  23. Integrated Database of Judgements, Aakanksha Mishra, DAKSH, accessed at https://www.dakshindia.org/next-generation-justice-platform/ (last accessed on 19.11.2023).
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