Ratio decidendi

The legal principles behind the court's decision.

The Latin term 'ratio decidendi' means the 'rationale for a decision' and refers to that the part of the judgement which is delivered at the end of a case explaining the reasons for the decision.


The doctrine of judicial precedent would not be able to operate if it were not for the requirement that the legal reason for past decisions must be stated. It is this part of the judgement which sets a precedent for other judges to follow.

Not every part of the judgement is binding - other parts of the judgement which are not binding may consist of  a brief summary or outline of the facts of the case, a review of the legal arguments put to the judge/s by the advocates in the case and this usually precedes the decision itself and the legal reasoning behind the decision.

The 'ratio decidendi' should be contrasted with parts of the judgement which are known as 'obiter dicta' which simply means 'other things said'.  Such remarks by the judge although sometimes helpful and influential are not binding.

 

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