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Report No. 99

4.3. Conceivable cases for disposal without oral arguments.-

At the outset, let us state, that at least hypothetically, it is possible to conceive of some cases in which properly prepared briefs (or even statements of cases) should be enough for setting out precisely the contours of the controversy. There are many controversies whose compass, is very limited, and whose constituent points might have been thrashed out exhaustively in the decisions of High Courts, so that the main function of the Supreme Court would be only to settle the law on the point by making a definitive pronouncement. Such definitive pronouncements (in cases of the above nature) would be possible without oral arguments. As we have said, where the contours of the controversies are very well defined, oral arguments may not be needed at all.

One example that comes to mind (though not in the field of constitutional law) is the narrow question whether, for the purpose of civil liability for defamation, Indian law at all recognises any distinction between libel and slander. The question happens to have arisen because of the state of the English law on the subject. The vast majority of rulings in India holds that there is no such distinction, but a very small segment of judicial opinion recognises the distinction. If this question is ever taken to the Supreme Court, written briefs setting out the relevant authorities and socio-legal arguments in support of either view should be enough to enable the Supreme Court to render a definitive pronouncement without the need for oral arguments.

Some High Court decisions on the subject have thrashed out the matter at length. In the example given by us about libel and slander, the judgments of many High Courts (on the supposed distinction between libel and slander) have dealt with almost all the conceivably relevant legal aspects of the matter. Besides this, there is also available enough academic literature, setting out the pros and cons of the matter. This literature deals with the social aspects of the matter also. In this position, it would not be difficult for the highest Court in the country to make a definitive pronouncement on the basis of material of the nature mentioned above, which can be conveniently presented through the medium of a written brief.



Oral and Written Arguments in the Higher Courts Back




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