Updated: Feb 7
Stare decisis is a Latin term meaning "to stand by that which is decided." The doctrine of stare decisis means that courts look to past, similar issues to guide their decisions. The past decisions are known as precedent. A doctrine is simply a principle or an instruction, but it's not necessarily a rule that cannot ever be broken. So, stare decisis is essential 'the rule of precedent.' Courts cite precedent when a court has already considered a particular legal issue and the court has already issued a ruling.
Under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts are expected to follow their own previous rulings and also the rulings from higher courts within the same court system. The doctrine operates both horizontally and vertically. Horizontal stare decisis refers to a court adhering to its own precedent. A court engages in vertical stare decisis when it applies precedent from a higher court. Consequently, stare decisis discourages litigating established precedents, and thus, reduces spending.
According to the Supreme Court, stare decisis “promotes the evenhanded, predictable, and consistent development of legal principles fosters reliance on judicial decisions, and contributes to the actual and perceived integrity of the judicial process."
This doctrine is popular in the British Commonwealth and in the United States.
However, it is not so popular in Continental Europe where jurists feel that a judicial decision cannot per se claim any legal authority or binding force. Article 5 of the French Civil Code says 'Judges are forbidden to decide cases submitted to them by way of general and regulatory provisions' thus disallowing them to depend on previous judgements to decide the case in hand.
In India, stare decisis came into existence with the establishment of British rule in the country which brings the concept of binding precedent. In 1813, Dorin suggested the adoption of the doctrine of stare decisis in India. The British Rule led to the hierarchy of courts as well as reporting of decisions, i.e., the two preconditions for the stare decisis. Though, the setting up of the Sardar Diwani Adalats and the Supreme Courts at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras. In 1861, the high court Act was enacted providing for the establishment of High Courts by the issue of letters patent. Such courts had original as well as appellate jurisdiction. A hierarchy of courts was thus established. Article 141 of the Constitution of India makes the ‘law declared’ by the Supreme Court binding on all courts within the territory in India. The Expression ‘law declared’ implies the law creating the role of the Supreme Court.