Retrospective operation of law declared by the Supreme Court

Scope of Retrospective operation of law declared by the Supreme Court

The Apex Court in Golak Nath v. State of Punjab, AIR 1967 SC 1643, has dealt with the powers of the court regarding the scope of retrospective operation of law declared by the Supreme Court, which is as follows –

“As this Court for the first time has been called upon the to apply the doctrine evolved in a different country under different circumstances, we would like to move warily in the beginning. We would lay down the following propositions:

  • The doctrine of prospective overruling can be invoked only in matters arising under our Constitution;
  • It can be applied only by the highest court of the country, i.e. the Supreme Court as it has the constitutional jurisdiction to declare law binding on all the courts in India;
  • The scope of the retroactive operation of the law declared by the Supreme Court superseding its ‘earlier decisions’ in is left to its discretion to be moulded in accordance with the justice of the cause or matter before it.”

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