Res Judicata

In this article, Yash Kansal discusses the provision of Res Judicata under the CPC.

Introduction

Under the Roman law, “ex captio res judicata” means “one suit and one decision is enough for any single dispute”. The doctrine has been accepted in all civilized legal system. In India, it is governed under Section 11 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 which provides that once a matter is finally decided by a competent court, no party can be permitted to reopen it in a subsequent litigation. In Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi [1], it was held that the principle of res judicata is based on the need of giving finality to judicial decision. Further, in the absence of such a rule, there will be no end to litigation and the parties would be put in constant trouble, harassment, and expenses.

Object

The doctrine is based on three maxims:-

  • No man should be vexed twice for the same cause.
  • It is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to litigation.
  • A judicial decision must be accepted as correct.

Conditions for application of Res Judicata (Section 11 of CPC,1908)

  • There must be two suits – One former & other subsequent: Former suit means previously decided suit. It doesn’t matter when the suit was instituted. What it matters is when the decision came from the court. For example,
Suit Filled on Suit Decided    on Former suit
1/10/2012 Still pending No
1/01/2013 10/11/2017 Yes

 

  • Matter directly and substantially in the subsequent suit: It means that matter must be directly related to the suit. It must not be collateral or incidental to the issue. For example, ‘A’ and her mother filed a suit against her father’s brother for claiming a share in the property of her mother. The question of marriage expenses was not directly or substantially in issue. The claim of partition was dismissed by the court. However, the principle of res judicata doesn’t bar ‘A’ to file a subsequent suit for her marriage expenses as the matter was not directly in issue in the former suit.
  • There must be same parties: The parties to a suit are those whose name appears on the record of the suit at the time of the decision. A party who withdraws or whose name is stuck off is not considered as a party. Further, a minor not represented by the guardian for the suit is not a party to the suit. Where any decision made by the court in favor of or against any party then it not only binds the party but also their successors too. For an instance, a suit filed by any person for recovery of possession and ownership title and the court decided in his favor, then his legal heirs also considered as the parties after his death and res judicata will apply.
  • There must be the same title: ‘Same title’ means ‘in same capacity’. It has been held in the number of cases that ‘a verdict against a man suing in one capacity will not stop him when he sues in another capacity’. For example, ‘A’ file suit against ‘B’ as the owner of property and suit is dismissed by the court. Later on, he filed a suit to claim his right as mortgagee will not bar him to institute a subsequent case. So where the suit is filed in a different capacity then it is considered to be a valid suit and doesn’t bar by this doctrine.
  • The decision must be made by the competent court: The Former decision must be given by competent court having jurisdiction on the case. If the case is decided by the court has no jurisdiction over the subject matter then res judicata will not apply. For an instance, revenue courts exercising authority under the Act can be held to be a court of limited jurisdiction and decision by it within its competence will operate as res judicata.
  • Heard and finally decided: The matter directly & substantially in issue in subsequent suit must have been heard and finally decided by the court in a former suit. “Heard and finally decided” means that the court has exercised its judicial mind & after argument and consideration came to decision on contested matter and decision is made on the merits of the case. In following cases the matter is deemed to be finally decided on merits even if the former suit is disposed of in the following manner:
  1. By ex parte
  2. By dismissal
  3. By decree on an award
  4. By oath tender under section 8 on Indian Oath Act,1873
  5. By dismissal owing to plaintiff failed to produce evidence at the hearing.

Does Res Judicata Apply To Writ Petition?

In Daryo Singh v. State of U.P. [2], the petitioner has filed a writ petition in High Court of Allahabad under Article 226 and it was dismissed. He further filled writ petition in Supreme Court under Article 32 of the constitution for same relief and same ground. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition and upheld the contention of High Court. Hence the principle will also apply to writ petitions.

However, it may be noted that the doctrine of Res Judicata will not apply to a writ of “Habeas Corpus”.

Foreign Judgements

Sectio  13 provides that foreign judgements may operate as res jusicata except in following six cases:-

  • Where the decision is not given by the competent court.
  • Where the decision has not been given on the merits of the case.
  • Where the judgement is found to be incorrect with the view of international law.
  •  Where the judgement opposed to the doctrine of natural justice.
  • Where the decision has been obtained by fraud
  • Where the judgement found to be on breach of law enforced in India.

Note – Res Judicata is not violative of Article 14. Hence, reopening of such decision on the ground that it is violative of Article 14 is not permissible.

References:

[1] A.I.R. 1960 SC 941

[2] A.I.R. 1961 SC 1459

Book referred – T.P Tripathy ( CPC,1908)  

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