Dismissal of a case by SC on the ground of delay in filing/non-filing is not a binding precedent: SC

The Supreme Court observed that a contract is void if prohibited by a statute under a penalty, even without express declaration that the contract is void

The Supreme Court had observed that the dismissal of a case by it on the ground of delay in filling or non-filing is not a binding precedent.

Prior Facts:

A bench of Justice R. Bhanumathi, Justice A.S. Bopanna and Justice Harishikesh Roy made this observation while considering appeals filed by the Union of India against the High Court’s Judgements which upheld the decisions rendered by the different bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) granting financial upgradation of grade pay in next promotional hierarchy by placing reliance upon Union of India and others vs. Raj Pal.

Key Features:

  • The bench refereed to the decisions in the Supreme Court cases of Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association vs. Union of India and others (1989) and Union of India vs. All India Service Pensioners Association and another (1988).
  • Most of the appeals against which the present petition was filled was decided by High Courts which have followed the Raj Pal and Ved Prakash’s case.
  • At the outset, it is to be pointed out that almost all the Tribunals/High Courts have only relied upon Raj Pal’s case for grant of financial upgradation on promotional hierarchy and rejected the stand of the appellant-UOI that under MACP scheme, the employees are entitled to financial upgradation of the next grade pay only.
  • The Bench of SC noted that, the clauses of the MACP Scheme including the clause providing the financial upgradation in the next Grade Pay have not been challenged by the respondents. In the impugned judgments, the Tribunals/High Courts have only relied upon Raj Pal’s case and not gone into the MACP Scheme vis-à-vis erstwhile ACP Scheme and also not considered the merits of the contention of the respondents and thus considered the MACP Scheme vis-à-vis erstwhile ACP Scheme in the light of the contentions raised by the respondent.
  • In State of Tamil Nadu v. S. Arumugham (1998) 2 SCC 198, the Supreme Court has observed that the government has the right to frame a policy to ensure efficiency and proper administration and to provide to suitable avenues for promotion to officers working in different department. The Supreme Court has further observed that the Tribunal cannot substitute its own views for the views of the government or direct new policy based on the views of Tribunal.
  • The Court observed that, as held in Haryana Civil Secretariat Personal Staff Association (2002) 6 SCC 72, the court should approach such matters with restraint and interfere only when the court is satisfied that the decision of the Government is arbitrary.
  • It held that, even in a case where the court takes the view that order/Scheme passed by the Government is not an equitable one, ordinarily only a direction could be given to the State Government or the authority for consideration of the matter and take a decision.
  • In almost all the cases clubbed with the present one, the High Courts have relied upon Raj Pal’s case only on the basis that Raj Pal’s case was dismissed by the Supreme Court. Even at the outset, it is to be pointed out that Raj Pal’s case, was dismissed by the Supreme Court vide order dated 15.04.2013 on the ground that there was no sufficient explanation to condone the delay in refiling the Special Leave Petition which is a default in the manner in which the case was prosecuted and not a dismissal on merits.


The bench held that, “ Article 141 of the Indian Constitution provides that the law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India, i.e., the pronouncement of law on the point shall operate as a binding precedent on all courts within India. Law declared by the Supreme Court has to be essentially understood as a principle laid down by the court and it is this principle which has the effect of a precedent.”

It added that, “A principle as understood from the word itself is a proposition which can only be delivered after examination of the matter on merits. It can never be in a summary manner, much less be rendered in a decision delivered on technical grounds, without entering into the merits at all. A decision, unaccompanied by the reasons can never be said to be a law declared by the Supreme Court though it will bind the parties’ inter-se in drawing the curtain on the litigation”.

The Bench of the SC observing that when a Special Leave Petition is dismissed by a non-speaking order, by such dismissal, the Supreme Court does not lay down any law as envisaged under Article 141 of the Constitution of India in Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association v. Union of India and Others (1989) 4 SCC 187, this Court held as, “it has been held by this Court that the dismissal of a special leave petition in limine by a non-speaking order does not justify any inference that, by necessary implication, the contentions raised in the special leave petition on the merits of the case have been rejected by the Supreme Court. It has been further held that the effect of a non-speaking order of dismissal of a special leave petition without anything more indicating the grounds or reasons of its dismissal must, by necessary implication, be taken to be that the Supreme Court had decided only that it was not a fit case where special leave petition should be granted. It, therefore, follows that when no reason is given, but a special leave petition is dismissed simpliciter, it cannot be said that there has been a declaration of law by this Court under Article 141 of the Constitution.”

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


  • Case of Union of India vs. M.V. Mohanan Nair, Civil Appeal No. 2016 of 2020, (Arising out of SLP(C) No.21803 of 2014), decided by the Supreme Court on March 05, 2020.
Vaibhav Goyal
Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.