A precedent is a statement of law found in the decision of a superior court, which decision has to be followed by that Court and by Courts inferior to it. If each judge were left to himself in deciding cases without reference to similar cases decided in the pat, the result would be utter confusion and chaos, the law would be uncertain, and the fate of litigants would hinge on the temperament of the judge or his mood of the day. Uniformity can only be achieved by the judges following, as far as possible, the law laid down by their fellow judges. It is through precedents that the judges herald the law to the world. Thus, the theory of precedent plays a very important role in the jurisprudence of every country.

Precedents are of greatest importance in any system of law which is mostly unwritten, as in England. Whatever may be the position in theory, it must be admitted that, in practice, the common law of England has been the work of English judges. In the words of Salmond, “the importance of judicial precedents has always been a distinguishing characteristic of English Law”.


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