Ex cathedra

Ex cathedra

Literal Meaning

With official authority.

Explanation & Origin

Ex cathedra is a Latin phrase, meaning not “from the cathedral,” but “from the chair.” The phrase does have religious origins though: it was originally applied to decisions made by Popes from their thrones.                               

According to Roman Catholic doctrine, a Pope speaking ex cathedra on issues of faith or morals is infallible.                                                                 

In general use, the phrase has come to be used with regard to statements made by people in positions of authority, and it is often used ironically to describe someone speaking with overbearing or unwarranted self-certainty.                 

It means with complete authority, or said by the Pope to be true and so accepted by all members of the Roman Catholic Church.                                 

The term is used, by extension, of anyone who is perceived as speaking as though with supreme authority. Ex cathedra authority is derived from one’s office or position.                                                                                


The Apostolic Letters alone may be ex cathedra documents, and may have the privilege of infallibility, if the matter admit of it.

Case Reference

Subramaniya Pillai vs Dhanabagyathammal And Another [7 October, 1958]                   

This case  was based upon the ex cathedra pronouncement by the learned District Judge in the beginning of paragraph 13 of his judgment which he does not condescend to discuss: Of course, the family arrangement will not be binding on the plaintiff after the reversion has opened. It is apparently on the foot of this ex cathedra pronouncement that the final conclusion just now set out seems to have emerged. In the result the learned District Judge confirmed the decree and judgment of the learned Subordinate Judge and dismissed the appeal.  

D.S. Nakara & Others vs Union Of India [1983 AIR 130] 

In this case Justice Iyer has in his inimitable style dissected Art.14 as under: The article   has a pervasive processual potency and versatile quality, equalitarian in its soul and allergic to discriminatory diktats. Equality is the antithesis of arbitrariness and ex cathedra ipse dixit is the ally of demagogic authoritarianism.

Municipal Corporation Of Delhi vs Gurnam Kaur  [1989 AIR 38]

In this case it was held that : Precedents sub silentio and without argument are of no moment. This rule has ever since been followed. One of the chief reasons for the doctrine of precedent is that a matter that has once been fully argued and decided should not be allowed to be reopened. The weight accorded to dicta varies with the type of dictum. Mere casual expressions carry no weight at all. Not every passing expression of a Judge, however eminent, can be treated as an ex cathedra statement, having the weight of authority.

The Divisional Controller, Ksrtc vs Mahadeva Shetty & anr [31 July, 2003]

This case held that : Precedents sub silentio and without argument are of no moment. Mere casual expression carry no weight at all. Nor every passing expression of a Judge, however eminent, can be treated as an ex cathedra statement having the weight of authority.

Som Parkash vs State of Delhi [1974AIR989]

In this case it was held that Ex cathedra condemnation of all traps and associate witnesses is neither pragmatic nor just, nor: is it fair to denounce all public servants indiscriminately. Judicial attitudes have to be discriminating, as has happened in this case.

Edited by Vigneshwar Ramasubramania

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

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