'We Are at Our Wits' End': SC Bench Baffled by 'Incomprehensible' Judgment

"I did not understand anything. I started doubting my own understanding!" Justice M.R. Shah remarked.

New Delhi: A Supreme Court bench on Friday expressed annoyance in no uncertain terms at the fact that a judgment it needed to consider in order to hear a petition was incomprehensibly written.

According to a report in LiveLaw, during a hearing on an Special Leave Petition arising out of an order passed by a division bench of the Himachal Pradesh high court, a bench comprising of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah expressed annoyance at the incomprehensible manner in which the judgement was written. They said the reasoning and language used was “inexplicable”.

“What is this judgment that has been written?” Justice Chandrachud asked in Hindi.

“I did not understand anything. There are long, long sentences. Then, there is an odd comma showing up somewhere. I did not understand anything. I have started doubting my own understanding!” Justice Shah said.

“I had to use Tiger balm,” Justice Shah added.

“I sat down to read it at 10.10 am. It was 10.55 [am] by the time I completed! I was like, ‘Can you imagine this?’ Finally, I had to look for the award of the CGIT itself. Oh my god, I am telling you, this is unbelievable.” Justice Chandrachud said.

“This is a dislocation of justice. In every matter, you find a just judgement like this,” he added.

Judgments must be such which everyone can understand, the bench sought to stress.

“Reading the order of the division bench of November 27, 2020, we note that the reasons recorded by the High Court in the long judgement of 18 pages are not comprehensible. The kind of reasoning and language employed is inexplicable”.

Also read: Judging Judges by the Length of their Judgments is a Bad Idea

“We are at our wit’s end. This is happening repeatedly,” said Justice Chandrachud.

Referring to Justice Krishna Iyer, Justice Chandrachud said, “His judgements used to have a profound thought, a profound sense of learning behind the artistry of words”.

“Brother, should we say something on how to write judgments? That simple language should be used in conveying what you are trying to say?” Justice Shah asked.

Emphasising the need for judgments to convey the reasoning and process of thought which underlines the conclusion, Justice Chandrachud said, “Judgments must be understandable not only to the members of the bar who have appeared in the matter or to those for whom they hold value as a precedent but must also have meaning to the general litigants who have to approach the courts for the enforcement of their rights. Otherwise, there is a disservice to the cause of ensuring accessible and understandable justice to all”.

“It is said that the judgment must be as simple as it can be so that everyone can understand. It is not supposed to be a thesis”, Justice Shah said.