SC deplores lack of in-house discipline

Supreme Court. File Picture

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday deplored the lack of "judicial discipline" among its own judges after its attention was drawn to a recent judgment by a three-judge bench that had overruled the order of another three-judge bench.

Usually, only a bench larger than the one that had delivered the judgment exercises the overturning power.

"The hoary principle of this great institution is you can't tinker with the system. If a judgment is wrong, there is a method of reference to a larger bench and this is the practice being followed over the years. If the Supreme Court is one, it should be made one and you need a conscious judicial discipline to do that. My painful concern is that this judicial discipline has not been followed. If it wants to correct an earlier judgment, it should be done by the larger bench to make it as the last word," Justice Kurian Joseph said.

On February 8, a three-judge bench of Justices Arun Mishra, A.K. Goel and M.M. Shantanagouder had ruled that land acquisition by a government agency cannot be set aside if the plot owners do not accept compensation within five years of its deposit with the treasury.

The bench was, in effect, overruling an order in 2014 by another three-judge bench in another case that the land acquisition becomes invalid if the award is not accepted within five years.

On Wednesday, when another land acquisition dispute came up before the apex court, a three-judge bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, Joseph and Deepak Gupta expressed anguish over the February 8 judgment.

The court said it would examine the matter on March 7. Until then, it said, all high courts should refrain from passing the final decision on petitions seeking higher compensation for land acquisition.


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