Difference between Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dicta

8 Differences between Ratio Decidendi and Obiter Dicta are as follows:

Ratio Decidendi

  1. Meaning: ratio = the measure of a quantity in terms of another; decidendi = decision.
  2. Salmon defines: "the ratio decidendi may be described roughly as the rule of law applied by and acted on by the court, or the rule which the court regarded as governing the case........
  3. The ratio decidendi has binding authority. It is more authoritative than obiter dicta.
  4. Rupert cross says: "if ratio decidendi is a rule of law expressly or impliedly treated by the judges as a necessary step in reaching his conclusion.......
  5. Case-laws: 1. bridges vs. hawkesqorth; 2. south Staffordshire water company vs. Sharman; 3. donoghue vs. Stevenson; Hedley by me co.ltd. Vs. Heller; etc.
  6. Salmond opines: "if we think of the rule of law as a line on graph, then the case itself is like a point through which that line is drawn.........
  7. Dr. Good hart propounded “material test". The rules of law based on "material facts" are ratio decidendi. It is the best method in finding "ratio".
  8. Professor wambaugh propounded "reversal" test. According to this method, the decision and reasons given by the judge shall be reversed and observed.

If the result is quite opposite, then it is "ratio". It is also the best way in finding "ratio" of case.

Obiter Dicta

  1. Meaning: obiter = by the way; dicta (pl.) = sayings; dictum (sing.) = saying.
  2. An obiter dictum is a statement made by a judge in course of his judgment which may not be precisely relevant to the issue before him.
  3. An obiter dictum has no such binding authority. It is a by-product of the original judgment. They are only remarks and opinions of the judge.
  4. A dictum is a rule of law stand by a judge which was neither expressly nor impliedly treated by him as a necessary step in reaching his conclusion.
  5. Case-laws: 1. Triefus &co. vs. post office; 2. Behrens vs. Bertram mills circus ltd.; etc.
  6. Obiter dicta are unrealistic and contrary to current practice.
  7. The rules of law based on “hypothetical facts” are mere dicta.
  8. If the result is the same, giving no affect on the decision, then it is “obiter dictum”.