The primary reason for the Supreme Court to stay the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi in the Modi surname case on August 4 is that nobody knows why the trial judge decided to serve him with a two year prison sentence, the maximum punishment for the offence of criminal defamation.
A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice B.R. Gavai said there is no clue about it in the trial judge’s verdict.
“The least the trial judge was expected to do was to give some reasons as to why he found it necessary to impose the maximum sentence of two years,” the Supreme Court observed in its four-page order.
Neither does the Gujarat High Court, despite spending “voluminous pages” confirming the two-year sentence of the trial judge, look for reasons.
A plethora of Supreme Court judgments hold that “right to reason is an indispensable part of a sound judicial system”.
Judges should give reasons for their decisions to indicate that they have applied their minds. Another rationale is that the affected party should know why the decision has gone against him.
Giving reasons is one of the salutary requirements of natural justice, the Supreme Court has said in its judgments.
Ensuring fair play
In SN Mukherjee v. Union of India, the Supreme Court held that the object underlying the rules of natural justice is to prevent miscarriage of justice and secure fair play in action.
“The expanding horizon of the principles of natural justice provides for the requirement to record reasons as it is now regarded as one of the principles of natural justice,” the judgment had noted.
The Supreme Court, in Sant Lal Gupta and Ors. v. Modern Co-operative Group Housing Society Ltd, laid down that a court is bound to give reasons for its conclusion.
“It is the duty and obligation on the part of the court to record reasons while disposing of the case. The hallmark of order and exercise of judicial power by a judicial forum is for the forum to disclose its reasons by itself,” the judgment said.
In its 1993 decision in Krishna Swami versus Union of India, the Court explained that reasons “demonstrate how the mind of the maker was activated and actuated and their rational nexus and synthesis with the facts considered and the conclusions reached”.
The Court observed that an unreasoned order, especially when it targets the personal liberty of an individual, would be arbitrary, violate equality before the law and amount to unfair procedure offending Article 21 of the Constitution.