The Supreme Court has, in a four to three majority decision of its review panel, overturned its earlier three to two majority decision of the ordinary bench in Ex parte Opuni. In the earlier decision, the Court granted an order of prohibition to restrain the trial judge in the criminal proceedings pending at the High Court (Honyenuga, JSC sitting as an additional High Court judge) from continuing to sit and hear the case. The Attorney-General, being dissatisfied with the decision, applied for a review of the decision and it is that application that resulted in the four to three majority decision under reference. The decision of the review panel is most interesting, not least because the minority decision is more convincing and has more depth and meat but also for the majority panel’s rather curious exposition of the doctrine of stare decisis.
What is the doctrine of stare decisis or judicial precedent?
The first elementary principle of stare decisis, also known as judicial precedent, is that, the law declared by a higher court in a hierarchy of courts enjoys a higher authority than that declared by a court lower in the hierarchy.