In Keshav Mills Co. Ltd. v. CIT, (1965) 2 SCR 908 a Constitution Bench enacted circumstances in which a Reference to a Larger Bench would lie. It was held, in revisiting and revising its earlier decision, SC should ask itself whether in the interest of the public good or for any other valid and compulsive reasons, it is necessary the earlier decision should be revised? Whether on the earlier occasion, did some patent aspects of the question remain unnoticed, or was the attention of Court not drawn to any relevant and material statutory provision, or was any previous decision bearing on the point not noticed? What was the impact of the error in the previous decision on public good? Has the earlier decision been followed on subsequent occasions either by SC or by a High Court? And, would the reversal of the earlier decision lead to public inconvenience, hardship or mischief? In Central Board of Dawoodi Bohra Community v. State of Maharashtra, (2005) 2 SCC 673 a Constitution Bench further observed, in case of doubt, a Smaller Bench can invite attention of the Chief Justice and request for the matter being placed for hearing before a Bench Larger than the one whose decision is being doubted.
Applying the tests laid down in the aforesaid cases, 5 Judges in Jindal Stainless Ltd. v. State of Haryana, (2010) 4 SCC 595 found, a Larger Bench ‘needs’ to revisit the interpretation of Part XIII of the Constitution including the various tests propounded in Atiabari Tea Co., (1961) 1 SCR 809 and Automobile Transport, (1963) 1 SCR 491.
A 9-Judge Bench is expected to hear the Reference on 18.07.2016. 9 Judges of SC sat together last for I.R. Coelho v. State of Tamil Nadu, (2007) 2 SCC 1. It has been 9 years.