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Can the Supreme Court overrule its own judgement & when it can’t?

Introduction

The Hon’ble Supreme Court is the apex court of India. Any person moves to the Supreme Court when their fundamental rights are infringed under Article 32 of Constitution of India. The Supreme Court often provides advisory to the legislation or applies eclipse on the act. They often provide guidelines too and overrule their own judgement whenever required.

Prospective overruling

Many a time, the country of India has witnessed overruling cases with the passage of time. Few of the important cases are discussed below –

In the Shankari Prashad case and Sajan Singh case, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution can be amended under article 368 of the Constitution of India. Apart from this, the court held that the word ‘law’ under Article 13 of Constitution of India isn’t included in amendment under article 368 of Constitution of India.

So, these two cases were overruled by the Supreme Court in Golaknath v. State of Punjab (AIR 1967 SC 1643), held that amendment made under Article 368 is subject to Article 13 of Constitution of India and fundamental rights cannot be amended through Article 368 of Constitution of India but the power to amend fundamental rights is in the residuary power of Legislation. 

But again the decision of the Supreme Court in Golaknath’s case was reconsidered in the Fundamental Rights case.

In the Re Berubari case, the Supreme Court held that Preamble was not a part of the Constitution.

But In Kesavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala also known as Fundamental Rights Case, the Court held that Preamble is a part of the Constitution of India and it can be amended under Article 368 of Constitution of India but the basic structure of the constitution can’t be amended.

Hence, it can be said that the Supreme Court can overrule its own judgement if it finds error or finds it to be against general welfare.

Can’t overrule by co-equal bench

 In Kartar Singh v. State of Punjab ((1995) 4 SCC 101), the court held that the previous decision of the Supreme Court can’t be overruled by a co-equal bench. To overrule any judgement there must be a larger bench. For instance- In Kesavananda Bharati case, 13 judges bench overrule all the cases such as Golaknath’s case, Re Berubari case, Shankari Prashad case and Sajan Singh case. 

Conclusion

It can be concluded that the Supreme Court can overrule its own case as the doctrine of stare decisis is recognised in India. To overrule its own decisions, Larger bench is required, neither lower bench nor co-equal bench can overrule the judgement.