- Bench-ADARSH KUMAR GOEL, UDAY UMESH LALIT, DR D Y CHANDRACHUD
- U/S Section 123(3) of the Representation of the People Act, 1951
- The ‘his’ in Section 123(3) does not refer to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the voter. ‘His’ is to be read as referring to the religion, race, caste, community or language of the candidate in whose favour a vote is sought
- Question discussed : 1. Once this Court has addressed an issue on a substantial question of law as to the structure of the Constitution and has laid down the law, a request for revisit shall not be welcomed unless it is shown that the structural interpretation is palpably erroneous.
2. Parameters for determining as to when earlier binding decisions ought to be reopened have been repeatedly laid down by this Court. The settled principle is that court should not, except when it is demonstrated beyond all reasonable doubts that its previous ruling given after due deliberation and full hearing was erroneous, revisit earlier decisions so that the law remains certain. [Gannon Dunkerley and Co. v. State of Rajasthan, (1963) 1 SCC 364, paras 28 to 31]In exceptional circumstances or under new set of conditions in the light of new ideas, earlier view, if considered mistaken, can be reversed. While march of law continues and new systems can be developed whenever needed, it can be done only if earlier systems are considered unworkable.
- Premise : Section 124(5) of the Act made a ‘systematic appeal’ (quite obviously to an elector) by anybody ‘to vote or refrain from voting’ on certain specified grounds ‘for the furtherance of the prospects of a candidate’s election’, a deemed minor corrupt practice.
- Broader Principle :The circumstances under which the reconsideration of an earlier judgment can be sought, articulated certain broad principles: (i) if the decision concerns an interpretation of the constitution, the bar for reconsideration might be lowered a bit; (ii) if the decision concerns the imposition of a tax, the bar may be lowered since the tax burden would affect a large section of the public; (iii) if the decision concerns the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution, then too the bar might be lowered; (iv) the court must be convinced that the decision is plainly erroneous and has a baneful effect on the public; (v) if the decision is with regard to a lis between two contending private parties it would not be advisable to revisit the judgment; (vi) power to reconsider is not unrestricted or unlimited, but is confined within narrow limits and must be exercised sparingly and judiciously; (vii) an earlier decision may be reconsidered if a material provision is overlooked or a fundamental assumption is found to be erroneous or if the issue is of fundamental importance to national life; (viii) it is not of much consequence if a decision has held the field for a long time or not; (ix) the court shall remain cognizant of the changing times that may require re-interpretation keeping in mind the “infinite and variable human desires” and changed conditions due to “development with progress of years.