Judgment means

In our opinion, a judgment within the meaning of these sections is the final decision of the Court intimated to the parties and to the world at large by formal “pronouncement” or “delivery” in open Court. It is a judicial act which must be performed in a judicial way. Small irregularities in the manner of pronouncement or the mode of delivery do not matter but the substance of the thing must be there; that can neither be blurred nor left to inference and conjecture nor can it he vague. All the rest – the manner in which it is to be recorded, the way in which it is to be authenticated, the signing and the sealing, all the rules designed to secure certainly about its content and matter – can be cured; but not the hard core, namely the formal intimation of the decision and its contents formally declared in a judicial way in open Court. The exact way in which this is done does not matter. In some Courts the judgment is delivered orally or read out, in some only the operative portion is pronounced, in some the judgment is merely signed after giving notice to the parties and laying the draft on the table for a given number of days for inspection.

An important point therefore arises. It is evident that the decision which is so pronounced or intimated must be a declaration of the mind of the Court as it is at the time of pronouncement. We lay no stress on the mode or manner of delivery, as that is not of the essence, except to say that it must be done in a judicial way in open Court. But however it is done it must be an expression of the mind of the Court at the time of delivery. We say this because that is the first judicial act touching the judgment which the Court performs after the hearing. Everything else up till then is done out of Court and is not intended to be the operative act which sets all the consequences which follow on the judgment in motion. Judges may and often do, discuss the matter among themselves and reach a tentative conclusion. That is not their judgment. They may write and exchange drafts. Those are not the judgment either, however heavily and often they may have been signed. The final operative act is that which is formally declared in open Court with the intention of making it the operative decision of the Court. That is what constitutes the “judgment”.

Now up to the moment the judgment is delivered Judges have the right to change their mind. There is a sort of ‘locus paenitentiae’ and indeed last minute alterations often do occur. Therefore, however much a draft judgment may have been signed beforehand, it is nothing but a draft till formally delivered as the judgment of the Court. Only then does it crystallise into a full fledged judgment and become operative. It follows that the Judge who “delivers” the judgment, or causes it to be delivered by a brother Judge, must be in existence as a member of the Court at the moment of delivery so that he can, if necessary, stop delivery and say that he has changed his mind. There is no need for him to be physically present in court but he must be in existence as a member of the Court and be in a position to stop delivery and effect an alteration should there be any last minute change of mind on his part. If he hands in a draft and signs it and indicates that he intends that to be the final expository of his views it can be assumed that those are still his views at the moment of delivery if he is alive and in a position to change his mind but takes no steps to arrest delivery.

But one cannot assume that he would not have changed his mind if he is no longer in a position to do so. A Judge’s responsibility is heavy and when a man’s life and liberty hang upon his decision nothing can be left to chance or doubt or conjecture; also, a question of public policy is involved. As we have indicated, it is frequently the practice to send a draft, sometimes a signed draft, to a brother Judge who also heard the case. This may be merely for his information, or for consideration and criticism. The mere signing of the draft does not necessarily indicate a closed mind. We feel it would be against public policy to leave the door open for an investigation whether a draft sent by a Judge was intended to embody his final and unalterable opinion or was only intended to be a tentative draft sent with an unwritten understanding that he is free to change his mind should fresh light drawn upon him before the delivery of judgment.[Surendra Singh and others Versus State of Uttar Pradesh-23/11/1953]