Doctrine of precedent is recognized in Indian legal system also. The main principles of doctrine of precedent as applicable in India are:
1. All inferior and subordinate court is bound by the decision of the High courts to which they are subordinate. Decisions of other High court are of only persuasive value for the subordinate court. Thus High court can bind only those inferior courts which are within their territorial jurisdiction. As for example district courts of Delhi are bound to follow the precedent set by Delhi High Court, but not of Chandigarh High Court. Decision pronounced by the Chandigarh High Court is only of persuasive value for the District court at Delhi.
2. In case there is a conflict between the decisions of two co-equal bench of the same High Court, then the decision later in time should be followed. However, apex court observed in Indo Swiss Time Ltd. vs. Umrao A.I.R. 1981, Panch H, 213(F.B.) that the authority must be considered on the basis of rationale view and logic expressed therein and not merely on fortuitous circumstances.
3. Smallest bench of the High Court consists of single judge, division bench is of two judges and the bench consisted of more than two judges is called full bench. The decision of larger bench is binding on smaller as well as coordinate bench.
Thus, a single judge bench should follow not only the decision of division bench and full bench’ but also of coordinate single bench. In case single bench wants to take a contrary view, or he thinks that the decision, whether of division or single bench is worth of reconsideration, then he must refer the matter to Division Bench or place the relevant papers before Chief Justice to enable him to constitute a larger bench to examine the question.
Similarly Division Bench is obliged to follow the decision of full bench and co-ordinate bench. If division bench does not agree with the decision of the co-ordinate bench, then it may place the papers before Chief Justice for being referred to a larger Bench.
4. The decision of one High Court is only of persuasive value for the other High Court. Thus, the decision of one High Court is not binding on the other High Court.
5. Supreme Court is the highest court of the territory of India. Decisions of Supreme Court are binding on all High Court and subordinate court of territory of India. Art. 141 contemplates, “The law declare by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India.”