De Novo: Origin, Meaning and Case Laws

By | October 11, 2021
De Novo

Last Updated on by Admin LB

This article titled ‘De Novo’ is written by Sahajpreet Bhusari and discusses the concept of de novo.

I. Meaning and Origin

De novo[1] is a legal term of Latin origin.

It is derived from the Latin word ‘anew’ which literally means ‘from the start or from the beginning’.

II. Explanation

When the court takes up any case afresh, no legal conclusions are referred to which were observed when the case was taken up earlier. The appellate court in the course of hearing the case may refer to the records of the lower case for determination of facts however, no reference is made to the findings of the court.

Trial de novo occurs when a court decides all issues in a case assuming it was the first time it was being conducted in that particular case[2].

The concept of appeal is different from that of the de novo trial. In appeal evidence that as produced in the start is reviewed by a court of law however, in the latter, the new evidence can be introduced in the court as the case is being heard afresh.

III. Application

De novo review is appropriate when the appellate courts are determining questions of law. Lower court judges are not necessarily in better positions to determine questions of law that appellate courts are and thus their decisions need not influence the interpretations of the appellate court.

For the same reason, de novo review is called a non-deferential standard of review so the appellate court examines the issue from the beginning without deferring to the lower court’s decision[3].

IV. Important case law

The appellate court undoubtedly has the power to direct the lower court to hold the trial de novo however the question that arises is when such a power is/ can be exercised. In the case of Pandit Ukha Kolhe v. State of Maharashtra[4], the court held that an order to review a criminal case is made in exceptional circumstances, and not unless the appellate court is satisfied that the court which held proceedings has no jurisdiction to hear it or that the trial was tainted with serious or unusual illegality or misunderstanding of the nature of the proceedings.

Such a scenario can arise when no real trial took place or the accused was prosecuted without him being able to produce evidence for reasons he had no control over.

Orders for a new trial remove previous proceedings from the record and refer the defendant to another trial providing an opportunity for the prosecutor to correct deficiencies disclosed in the previous trial.


References

[1] Legal Dictionary, Available Here, Accessed on 21st September 2021.

[2] Adam Hayes, De Novo Judicial Review, Available Here, Accessed on 21st September 2021.

[3] Ibid.

[4] (1964) SCR 926.


  1. Law Library: Notes and Study Material for LLB, LLM, Judiciary and Entrance Exams
  2. Legal Bites Academy – Ultimate Test Prep Destination
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