Res Judicata

This blog is inscribed by Shalini Gupta.

The doctrine of Res Judicata is embodied under Section 11 of Civil Procedure Code. The principle of Res Judicata is based on the need of giving finality to judicial decisions[1]. It says that once a ‘res’ is ‘judicata’, it shall not be adjudged again. It primarily applies between past and future litigation.

When a matter on question of fact has been decided between two parties in one suit or proceeding and the decision is final either because no appeal was preferred or because the time for preferring appeal has expired or because the appeal was dismissed or that no appeal lies, then neither party will be allowed in a future suit or proceeding to canvass the matter again[2].

The principle of res judicata also applies as between two stages in the same litigation to the extent that a court having at an earlier stage decided a matter in one way, will not allow the parties to re-agitate the matter again at a subsequent stage of the same proceeding[3].

Section 11 does not create any right or interest in the parties but merely operate as a bar to try the same issue again. The language of Section 11 is directed to the court and is directory as well as mandatory. It instructs the Court not to try a suit or an issue which has already been determined by a court of competent jurisdiction between the same parties.

In the case of Daryao v. State of UP[4], it was observed that the principle of res judicata is a fundamental doctrine of law that there must be an end to litigation. The Court further observed that this doctrine has attained the status of rule of law.

In the case of V. Rajeshwari v. T.C. Sarvanabava[5], it was observed that the plea of res judicata has to be specifically and expressly raised. The foundation of the plea nof res judicata must be laid in the pleadings. If it was not done, no party would be permitted to raise it for the first time at the stage of appeal.

In the case of Satyadham Ghoshal vs Deorajin Debi[6], it was observed that the principle of res judicata is based on the need of giving a finality to judicial decisions. The principle though embodied under section 11 CPC, but even where Section 11 CPC does not apply the principle of res judicata has been applied by the Courts.

The literal meaning of ‘res’ is ‘everything that my form an object of rights and includes an object, subject matter or status’ and ‘res judicata’ literally means a matter adjudged, a thing judicially acted upon or decides a thing or matter settled by judgement.

In order that a defence of res judicata succeed, it is necessary not only to show the cause of action was the same but also the plaintiff had an opportunity of getting the relief which he is now seeking in the subsequent proceeding. The test for the applicability of the doctrine of res judicata is whether the claim in the subsequent suit is founded on the same cause of action which was the foundation of the former suit.

The cause of action in a suit has no relation to the defence which may be set up nor does it depend upon the character of the relief prayed for by the plaintiff. It refers entirely on the ground set for in the plaint or upon the media upon which the plaintiff asks the Court to arrive at a conclusion.

In the case of Union of India vs Pramod Gupta[7], it has been observed by the Supreme Court that the principle of res judicata does not apply in a case involving pure question of law. A question of fact decided by a court is conclusive and cannot be re-opened. Similarly, a mixed issue of law and fact also cannot be re-opened. Even though res judicata on pure questions of law does not apply but it will apply between the same parties in subsequent proceeding if the cause of action is same in both the proceedings.

Section 11 of CPC contains the rule of conclusiveness of judgement and is based upon the following two maxims:

  1. Interest replicaeut sit finislitium: it is in the interest of the State that there must be an end of litigation.
  2. Nemo debet vis vexari pro una et edam causa:no man should be vexed twice for the same cause of action

Section 11 of CPC is mandatory and it can only be avoided by taking recourse to Section 44 of Indian Evidence Act. Therefore, if it is proved that the judgement in the previous suit was obtained through fraud or collusion then it would not operate as res judicata.

Res Judicata and Estoppel

The principle of res judicata is species of the principle of estoppel[8]. Res judicata is sometimes referred to as part of the doctrine of estoppel which has been given under Section 115 of Indian Evidence Act but there are differences between the two. Estoppel is a part of law of evidence and prevents a man from saying one thing at a time and the opposite thing at another time[9]. Res judicata on other hand is a rule of civil procedure which prevents a man from saying the same thing in successive litigation. Res judicata results from the decision of the court whereas estoppel results from the act of parties. The doctrine of res judicata ousts the jurisdiction of a civil court to try a suit, whereas estoppel is merely a rule of evidence. Res judicata proceeds on the ground of public policy whereas the doctrine of estoppel proceeds on the ground of equity.

In Sita Rant v. Amir Begum[10],the court observed that the difference between res judicata and estoppel is that the former prohibits the court from entering into an inquiry as to a matter already adjudicated upon whereas the latter prohibits the party after the inquiry has been entered upon from proving anything which would contradict his own previous declaration.

In  the case of Bhanu Kumar Jain v. Archana Kumar[11], it was held that the doctrine of res judicata is a different kind of estoppel which is also known as ‘estoppel by accord’.

Doctrine of res judicata creates legal embargo on hands of the Court to a judicial determination of deciding the same question over again even though the earlier determination may be demonstratedly erroneous[12].

Res Judicata & Lis Pendens

The doctrine of res judicata implies that once a matter is conclusively adjudicated between two parties, it cannot be agitated again by way of a subsequent litigation. On the other hand, doctrine of lis pendens given under Section 52 of transfer of property Act, 1882 provide that an alienee pendente lite would be bound by the result of the litigation. Therefore, if during the pendency of the litigation, the subject matter is transferred to a third person, then the third person would be bound by a decision that is given in a pending litigation.

However, there is a difference between lis pendens and res judicata. The doctrine of res judicata implies that there would be two suits. On the other hand, lis pendens is concerned with just one suit.

It can be said that the rule of res judicata prevails over the doctrine of lis pendens. Therefore, once a judgement is duly pronounced in a suit in which the doctrine of lis pendens applies, then that decision is res judicata and bvinds not only the parties but also the transferee pendente lite.

Res Judicata & Interlocutory Orders

Res judicata does not apply to interlocutory orders as such orders do not determine the rights of the parties and are not on merits or decide in any manner the merits of the controversy on suit and also do not put an end to the suit. Such orders are capable of being altered or varied by subsequent applications for the same relief.

Constructive Res Judicata

Explanation IV of Section 11 of CPC lays down the doctrine of constructive res judicata. According to this provision, a person instituting the suit has to raise all the grounds of attack or defence by way of one suit. Therefore, if he omits to raise any ground of attack or defence which he might and ought to have raised in the first suit and institutes a second suit in which he raises such omitted issue, then the second suit would be barred by constructive res judicata.

Constructive res judicata applies when a matter-in-issue which might and ought to have been raised in the first suit itself but was not raised , it would be deemed that such issue was directly and substantially in issue in the first suit, it has been raised by the party and has been heard and finally decided by the court and therefore it would not be allowed to be raised again by way of second suit.

The purpose of doctrine of constructive res judicata is to prevent splitting of suits and therefore if a plaintiff has multiple grounds of attack and defence against the defendant then all such grounds has to be raised by way of one suit only.

In State of UP v. Nawab Hussain[13],inspector was dismissed from service. He challenged his dismissal on the ground that he was not given an opportunity of being heard and therefore it was violation of principles of natural justice. Court held that ample opportunity was given to him and there was no violation of principles of natural justice. He instituted a second suit challenging his dismissal, this time on the ground that there was violation of Article 311 of Constitution as he was appointed by a higher authority but was dismissed by an authority which was subordinate to the appointing authority. The supreme court held that the ground raised in the second suit might and ought to have been raised by way of first suit itself and by virtue of explanation IV, it would be deemed as if such grounds was directly and substantially in issue in the first suit. Has been heard by the court and decided and therefore would not be allowed to be raised again by way of a second suit.


[1]Saatyadhyan Ghosal &ors. V. Smt. Deorjin Debi &anr. AIR 1960 SC 941, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/135987634/.

[2]Santosh Kr. Mondal &ors. Vs Nandalal Chakrapani &ors. AIR 1963 Cal 289, https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1126041/.

[3]Erach Boman Khavar v. Tukaram Shridhar Bhat &O rs., http://roundup.manupatra.in/trans/viewdoc.aspx?i=ptiDy4oUEz7W4RhahAaT6h93RFUeTV40hI1vo81W7g5uCfRP5tL0pktJVchar(43)F5g3qk&id=zwKDa4S8QbBCBSkXPhUPwdhgNS/662rslY6c6/vT6joE3nt3g4yCt36rWF0FsY8tvQCZokqV8A8Echar(43)jejMZAOxg==.

[4]1961 AIR 1457, 1962 SCR (1) 574.

[5] 1962 SC.

[6]1960 AIR 941, 1960 SCR (3) 590.

[7] (D) By Lrs. & Ors on & September,2005.

[8]Ishwar Dutt vLand Acquisition Collector & Anr., (2005) 7 SCC 190, https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/899065/?formInput=estoppel.

[9]Yuvraj Rathore &Shaurya Singh Rathore, The doctrine of estoppel as a rule of evidence: an overview, http://thelawbrigade.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/YuvrajShhaurya.pdf.

[10](1886) I.L.R. 8 All 324.

[11]AIR 2005 SC 626.

[12]Yamunabaipurushottam v Mathurabai Nikanth Choudhary on 3 July 2009, https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/713315/?big=3&formInput=issue%20estoppel.

[13]1977 AIR 1680, 1977 SCR (3) 428.


References

Books:

  1. C.K. Takwani, Civil Procedure Code with limitation Act, 1963, eighth edition, Eastern Book Publication.
  2. Dr. Avtar Singh, ‘principles of The Law of Evidence’, Central Law Publications.
  3. Dr. T. P. Tripathi, ‘The Transfer of Property Act, 1882’, Allahabad Law Agency Publications

Web References:

  1. https://indiankanoon.org/doc/655045/
  2. https://indiankanoon.org/docfragment/618705/?formInput=china
  3. https://www.aironline.in/legal-judgements/AIR%202005%20SUPREME%20COURT%20626
  4. https://www.legitquest.com/case/state-of-uttar-pradesh-v-nawab-hussain/288E

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