Judicial Precedents are an important source of law. They have enjoyed High authority in all times and in all countries.
There are four kinds of Precedent it may be classified under the following heads -
1) Authoritative Precedents
a) Absolute Precedents
b) Conditional Precedents
2) Persuasive Precedents
3) Original Precedents
4) Declaratory Precedents
1) Authoritative Precedents
According to Salmond, an authoritative Precedent is one which Judges must follow whether they approve it or not. Authoritative Precedents are the legal sources of law. Authoritative Precedents establish law in pursuance of definite rule of law which confers upon them that effect. The authoritative Precedents must be followed by the Judges whether they approve of them or not.
Authoritative Precedents are of two kinds, Absolute and Conditional.
In case of absolutely authoritative Precedents, they have to be followed by the Judges even if they do not approve of them. They are entitled to implicit obedience.
In the case of authoritative Precedents having a Conditional authority, the Court can disregard them under certain circumstances. Ordinarily they are binding but under special circumstances, they can be disregarded.
2) Persuasive Precedents –
A persuasive Precedent is one which the Judges are under no obligation to follow but which they will take into consideration and to which they will attach great weight as it seems to them to deserve. Persuasive Precedents are merely Historical. If Persuasive Precedents succeed in establishing law at all, they do indirectly by serving as the Historical ground of some later authoritative Precedent. They do not have any legal force or effect in themselves. The Persuasive Precedents can merely persuade the Judge but it is up to the judge to follow them or not.
3) Original Precedents –
According to Salmond , an original Precedent is one which creates and applies a new rule. In the case of Original Precedent, it is law for the future because it is now applied. The number of original Precedents is small but their importance us very great, they alone develop the law of the country. They serve as good evidence of law for the future.
4) Declaratory Precedents -
According to Salmond, a declaratory precedent is one which is merely the application of an already existing rule of law. In the case of declaratory precedent, the rule is applied because it is already law. In case of advanced countries, declaratory Precedents are more numerous. A declaratory precedent is good as a source of law as an original Precedent.
The legal authority of both is exactly the same. An original Precedent is an authority and source of law but both original and declaratory Precedents have their own value.
See also... Doctrine of Precedent in India