Define and distinguish between Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dicta.


Q. 18 (d). Define and distinguish between Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dicta.

Ans. ‘Ratio Decidendi’ β€”It means reasons for the decision. If a question comes before the Judge which is not covered by any authority he will have to decide it upon principle, that is to say, he has to formulate the rule for the occasion and decide the case applying that rule to the facts of the case. The rule that he formulates in deciding the case will be law for all subsequent like cases. Thus, whatever rule a .yige enunciates just for the purpose of deciding the case before him, that is to say, the rule declared and applied by the Judge in deciding a case before him, is a valid and authoritative act on his part. Hence, to extract the law is a precedent.

One has to study the material facts of the case, the decision thereon, the rules and principles enunciated by the Judge in the course of such decision, and then pull out that rule or principle which is actually made use of by the Judge in deciding the dispute in the case. The legal principle formulated for, and actually applied in deciding the problem in the case is called ‘Ratio decidendi’. It is the legal principle which forms the basis of: adjudication of the points in issue.

This ratio decidendi has to be determined by the judge and he has to apply it to the facts of a case which he is going to decide. This provides anj opportunity to the judge to mould the law according to changed circumstances.

Obiter Dicta β€”It means ‘things said by the way’. It is the statement of law which is not strictly relevant to the facts of the case and goes beyond the requirements of the points in issue. Obiter dicta are of little legal authority.: At best they amount only to persuasive precedent. They do not even bind the lips that utter them. However, the obiter dicta pro-nounced by highest tribunals of justice are at times binding like the obiter dicta of Supreme Court of India conclusively binding on all inferior courts.

Things said by the judge by way of illustration or just to make the point clear to the persons can also be termed as obiter dicta.

Difference Between ‘Ratio Decidendi’ and `Obiter Dicta’ β€”The term ‘ratio decidendi’ contains the law in the precedent. ‘Obiter dicta’ are of little legal authority. At best they amount to persuasive precedents. The `obiter dicta’ of the English Courts in the State may command a high persuasive effect at the subordinate Courts, still, it has only a persuasive effect, and no, binding effect. But the ‘ratio decidendi’ are binding authorities.