The Supreme Court recently delivered a split verdict in the Karnataka hijab ban case with one of the two judges on the Bench upholding the order of the Karnataka High Court validating the government’s ban, and the other set aside the High Court ruling.
- A split verdict is passed when the Bench cannot decide one way or the other in a case, either by a unanimous decision or by a majority verdict.
- Split verdicts can only happen when the Bench has an even number of judges.
- This is why judges usually sit in Benches of odd numbers (three, five, seven, etc.) for important cases, even though two-judge Benches — known as Division Benches — are not uncommon.
After the verdict
- In case of a split verdict, the case is heard by a larger Bench.
- The larger Bench to which a split verdict goes can be a three-judge Bench of the High Court, or an appeal can be preferred before the Supreme Court. In the case of the hijab verdict, the CJI, who is the ‘master of the roster’, will constitute a new, larger Bench to hear the matter.
- In May, a two-judge Bench of the Delhi High Court delivered a split verdict in a batch of petitions challenging the exception provided to marital rape in the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
- Justice Rajiv Shakdher held that the exception under Section 375 (which deals with rape) of the IPC is unconstitutional, while Justice C Hari Shankar held that the provision is valid.
- Among other cases in which courts have delivered split verdicts is the Madras High Court Division Bench order on the challenge to the disqualification of AIADMK MLAs owing allegiance to TTV Dinakaran (2018).
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