Vinod Kumar Singh Vs. Banaras Hindu
University & Ors  INSC 329 (11 November 1987)
RANGNATH MISRA RANGNATH RANGNATHAN, S.
CITATION: 1988 AIR 371 1988 SCR (1) 941 1988
SCC (1) 80 JT 1987 (4) 304 1987 SCALE (2)1046
Provisions of the Civil Procedure
Code-Whether a judgment once pronounced in open Court becomes operative even
without the signatures of the Judges and any alteration therein whether
% The appellant passed the Bachelor's
examination in law with 54.5 per cent marks. He applied for admission to the
Master's Course in law. The university had prescribed a minimum of 55 per cent
marks for admission to the course.
The appellant claimed weightage on certain
grounds on the strength of a precedent. The admission was, however, refused.
The appellant filed a writ petition. A Division Bench of the High Court heard
the writ petition and dictated the judgment in the open court, allowing the
petition and directing the university to admit the appellant, but soon
thereafter, before the judgment was signed, the appellant's matter was again
put in the hearing list to be heard afresh.
The Division Bench, which had allowed the
writ petition, released the case from its list and directed the same to be
listed before another Division Bench. On the matter being so listed, the Second
Division Bench dismissed the petition.
The appellant appealed to this Court by
special leave against the order of dismissal passed by the High Court.
Allowing the appeal and directing the
university to admit the appellant, the Court, ^
HELD: The provisions of Order 20, rule 3 of
the Code of Civil Procedure give power to the Court to make
alterations/additions in a judgment so long as the judgment has not been
signed, but that power should be exercised judicially, sparingly and for
adequate reasons. When a judgment is pronounced in the open court, the parties
act upon it and conduct their affairs on the basis that it is in judgment of
the court and that the signing of the judgment is a formality to follow. A
judgment to be operative does not await the signing thereof by the court. If
what is pronounced in the court is not acted upon, the litigants would be
prejudiced; their confidence in the judicial process would be shaken. A
judgment pronounced in the open court should be acted upon unless there be some
exceptional feature, like, soon after the judgment 942 is declared in the open
court, a feature, not placed for consideration before the court earlier, is
brought to its notice by either party to the cause, or the court discovers some
new facts from the record or the court notices a feature, which should be taken
into account, or a review is asked for, which is granted. In such a situation
the court may take up the matter again for further consideration, and it has to
give good reasons if the judgment delivered by it is not to be operative.
947A] Since the writ petition of the
appellant had first been allowed by pronouncement of the judgment in the open
court, and there is nothing on record to justify why it was not acted upon, the
appeal succeeds. [947E-F] Surender Singh and others v. The State of Uttar Pradesh,
 5 S.C.R. 330, relied upon.
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 2976 of 1987.
From the Judgment and Order dated 23.3.1987
of the Allahabad High Court in C.M.W.P. No. 4397 of 1986.
S.N. Singh and T.N. Singh for the Appellant.
L.N. Sinha and L.R. Singh for the
The following Order of the Court was
O R R Special leave granted.
Appellant passed Bachelor's examination in
law from the Banaras Hindu University securing 54.4% marks and was placed in
the second division. He applied for admission in the Master's Course in Law in
the academic session 1979/80. The University had prescribed a minimum of 55%
marks on the average of three years of the degree course as the qualifying
requirement. Appellant claimed weightage on the basis that members of his
family had donated lands and houses to the University and cited the case of
Shri Anant Narain Singh as a precedent. As he failed to secure admission, he
again applied for taking admission in the academic session 1983-84 but was not
Ultimately he filed a writ petition before
the Allahabad 943 High Court. On 28.7.1986 the said writ petition was taken up
for hearing by a Division Bench and when hearing was concluded, judgment was
dictated in open Court allowing the writ petition and direction to the
University to admit the petitioner was ordered. The appellant applied for
certified copy of the judgment but was told that the matter was again in the
hearing list and would be heard afresh. The matter continued to appear in the
hearing list from September 1986 till 5.2.1987 when the particular Division
Bench which had heard the matter released the case to be taken up by another
Bench. On 23rd of March, 1987, the writ petition was dismissed by the new
Two contentions have been raised before us.
It is maintained that once the judgment was delivered in open Court it became
operative and could not be changed. The dismissal of the writ petition after it
had been once allowed was, therefore, without jurisdiction; it was also
contended that on the facts of the case the appellant should have been given
There is no dispute that on 28.7.1986, a
Division Bench heard the writ petition and disposed it of. The order sheet of
that day reads thus:
"Sri Aditya Narain for the petitioner
Sri Siddheshwar Pd. for the respondents Petition heard finally. Writ Petition
Subsequently there is an endorsement without
anybody's signature to the following effect:
Under signature (illegible) Listed for
On February 5, 1987, the same learned Judges
who had allowed the writ petition gave the following directions:- "We
release this case but we direct that this case be placed before the Hon'ble the
Chief Justice for getting it listed before the appropriate bench as the matter
was once heard by us and judgment dictated but later on was not signed and was
ordered to be listed for further hearing." "As prayed by counsel for
University the petition.
may be listed, if possible on 25th February,
944 There is no dispute that the writ
petition had been allowed by judgment pronounced in open Court on 28.7.1986
after hearing was concluded. According to the appellant the judgment once
pronounced in open Court became operative even without signature of the learned
Judges and could not be altered. Reliance is placed on a judgment of this Court
in the case of Surendra Singh & Ors. v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, 
5 SCR 330. The facts of that case show that a Division Bench of the Allahabad
High Court sitting at Lucknow consisting of Kidwai and Bhargava JJ. heard a
criminal appeal and on 11th of December, 1952, judgment was reserved. Before it
could be delivered Bhargava J. was shifted to Allahabad. While there, he
dictated a judgment treating it to be a judgment of both. He signed every page
of the judgment as well as at the end but did not put the date. He sent it to
Kidwai J. at Lucknow. On the 24th of December, 1962, before the judgment was
delivered Bhargava J. passed away. On the 5th of January, 1953, Kidwai J.
delivered the judgment of the Court. He
signed it had dated it. The question as to whether the judgment was a valid one
came up for consideration. While dealing with such a question, Bose J. spoke
for the Court thus:- "In our opinion, a judgment within the meaning of
these sections is the final decision of the court intimated to the parties and
to the world at large by formal "pronouncement" or
"delivery" in the open court. It is a judicial act which must be
performed in a judicial way. Small irregularities in the manner of
pronouncement or the mode of delivery do not matter but the substance of the
thing must be there: that can neither be blurred nor left to inference and
conjecture nor can it be vague. All the rest-the manner in which it is to be
recorded, the way in which it is to be authenticated the signing and the
sealing, all the rules designed to secure certainity about its content and
matter- can be cured; but not the hard core, namely the formal intimation of
the decision and its content formely declared in a judicial way in open court.
The exact way in which this is done does not matter. In some courts the
judgment is delivered orally or read out, in some only the operative portion is
pronounced, in some the judgment is merely signed after giving notice to the
parties and laying the draft on the table for a given number of days for
inspection." "An important point, therefore, arises. It is evident
that the decision which is so pronounced or intimated must be a 945 declaration
of the mind of the court as it is at the time of pronouncement. We lay no
stress on the mode or manner of delivery, as that is not of the essence, except
to say that it must be done in a judicial way in open court. But, however, it
is done, it must be an expression of the mind of the court at the time of
delivery. We say this because that is the first judicial act touching the
judgment which the court performs after the hearing. Everything else uptil then
is done out of court and is not intended to be the operative act which sets all
the consequences which follow on the judgment in motion. Judges may, not often
do, discuss the matter among themselves and reach a tentative conclusion. That
is not their judgment.
They may write and exchange drafts. Those are
not the judgment either, however, heavily and often they may have been signed.
The final operative act is that which is formally declared in open court with
the intention of making it the operative decision of the court. That is what
constitutes the judgment.........." Bose J. continued to say:
"As soon as the judgment is delivered
that becomes the operative pronouncement of the court. The law then provides
for the manner in which it is to be authtenticated and made certain. The rules
regarding this differ but they do not form the essence of the matter and if
there is irregularity in carrying them out it is curable. Thus if a judgment
happens not to be signed and is inadvertently acted on and executed, the
proceedings consequent on it would be valid because the judgment, if it can be
shown to have been validly delivered, would stand good despite defects in the
mode of its subsequent authentication".
"After the judgment has been delivered
provision is made for review. One provision is that it can be freely altered or
amended or even changed completely without further formality, except notice to
the parties and a rehearing on the point of change should that be necessary,
provided it has not been signed. Another is that after signature a review
properly so-called would lie in civil cases but none in criminal; but the
review, when it lies, is only permitted on very narrow grounds........."
946 The above observations were made, as already mentioned, in a case where the
judgment had been signed but not pronounced in the open court. In the present
case, we are concerned with a judgment that had been pronounced but not signed.
The provision in order 20, rule 3 of the Code of Civil Procedure indicates the
position in such cases. It permits alterations or additions to a judgment so
long as it is not signed. This is also apparently what has been referred to in
the last paragraph of the extract from the judgment of Bose, J. quoted above,
where it has been pointed out that a judgment which has been delivered
"can be freely altered or amended or even changed completely without
further formality, except notice to the parties and re- hearing on the point of
change, should that be necessary, provided it has not been signed." It is
only after the judgment is both pronounced and signed that alterations or
additions are not permissible, except under the provisions of section 152 or
section 114 of the Code of Civil Procedure or, in very exceptional, cases,
under section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure.
But, while the Court has undoubted power to
alter or modify a judgment, delivered but not signed, such power should be
exercised judicially, sparingly and for adequate reasons. When a judgment is
pronounced in open court, parties act on the basis that it is the judgment of
the Court and that the signing is a formality to follow.
We have extensively extracted from what Bose
J. spoke in this judgment to impresss upon everyone that pronouncement of a
judgment in court whether immediately after the hearing or after reserving the
same to be delivered later should ordinarily be considered as the final act of
the court with reference to the case. Bose J.
emphasised the feature that as soon as the
judgment is delivered that becomes the operative pronouncement of the court.
That would mean that the judgment to be operative does not await signing
thereof by the court. There may be exceptions to the rule, for instance, soon
after the judgment is dictated in open court, a feature which had not been
placed for consideration of the court is brought to its notice by counsel of
any of the parties or the court discovers some new facts from the record. In
such a case the court may give direction that the judgment which has just been
delivered would not be effective and the case shall be further heard. There may
also be cases-though their number would be few and far between-where when the
judgment is placed for signature the court notices a feature which should have
been taken into account. In such a situation the matter may be placed for
further consideration upon notice to the parties. If the judgment delivered is
intended not to 947 be operative, good reasons should be given.
Ordinarily judgment is not delivered till the
hearing is complete by listening to submissions of counsel and perusal of
records and a definite view is reached by the court in regard to the
conclusion. Once that stage is reached and the court pronounces the judgment,
the same should not be reopened unless there be some exceptional circumstance or
a review is asked for and is granted. When the judgment is pronounced, parties
present in the court know the conclusion in the matter and often on the basis
of such pronouncement, they proceed to conduct their affairs.
If what is pronounced in court is not acted
upon, certainly litigants would be prejudiced. Confidence of the litigants in
the judicial process would be shaken. A judgment pronounced in open court
should be acted upon unless there be some exceptional feature and if there be
any such, the same should apear from the record of the case. in the instant
matter, we find that there is no material at all to show as to what let the
Division Bench which had pronounced the judgment in open court not to
authenticate the same by signing it. In such a situation the judgment delivered
has to be taken as final and the writ petition should not have been placed for
fresh hearing. The subsequent order dismissing the writ petition was not
available to be made once it is held that the writ petition stood disposed of
by the judgment of the Division Bench on 28.7.1986.
The record of the proceedings of the High
Court which is before us does not contain the judgment delivered in court on
28.7.1986 but there is no dispute that the writ petition had been allowed. On the
conceded position that the appellant's writ petition was allowed by the High
Court, the University is directed to admit the appellant to the Master's Course
in Law in the current session.
We understand that the University's courses
of study have now been changed. The University shall take such steps as are
practicable to give effect to this decision.
The appeal is accordingly allowed. There will
be no order for costs.
S.L Appeal allowed.