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This article has been written by Zeeshan Ahmad, pursuing the Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation from LawSikho.

Introduction

Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 provides for the provision of Res Sub judice. It provides that no Court shall proceed with the trial of any suit which is already instituted in a competent court and involves the same parties and that the matter in issue in the subsequent suit is also directly and substantially in issue in the previous suit. This article discusses the scope of Res Sub-judice, the essential conditions required for its application, and its relevance through analysis of case laws. 

Nature and scope

The rule in Section 10 is intended to prevent courts of competent jurisdiction from simultaneously entertaining and adjudicating two parallel litigations involving the same cause of action, same subject matter, and similar relief. The legal policy is to limit a plaintiff to a single lawsuit, avoiding the possibility of two contradicting decisions from the same court on the same issue.

The important terms in Section 10 are “the matter in issue is directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit”. Hence, where the topic under controversy is the same, then only Section 10 applies. When it isn’t the same, the section isn’t applicable. The purpose of this clause is to safeguard a person from several legal proceedings and to prevent a conflict of decisions. It also tries to minimise the parties’ discomfort and to give effect to the law of res judicata.

Essential conditions for the application of this provision

  1. Two suits- There must be two suits, one previously instituted and the other subsequently instituted.
  2. Directly and Substantially- The matter in issue in the subsequent suit must be directly and substantially in issue in the previous suit.
  3. Same parties- The parties involved in both the suits must be the same.
  4. Jurisdiction of Court- The previously instituted suit must be pending in a court in India or a Court beyond the limits of India but established or continued by the Central government of India.
  5. Competent Court- The Court in which the previous suit is instituted must be competent and have the jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the subsequent suit.
  6. The same title- The parties involved must be litigating under the same title.

The fundamental aim or nexus underlying this section is to bring the action to a close, to avoid harassing the defendant, to avoid squandering the court’s resources, and to avoid delaying the court’s proceedings. The fundamental goal of this Section, according to the case of Guru Prasad v. Bijay Kumar, is to eliminate the conclusion of two conflicting rulings on the same topic. However, it would not be against this Doctrine if the two suits were dealt with concurrently by a single Court in order to deliver justice.

Any suit can be filed in a foreign court in line with the jurisdictional limitations, and the same can be filed in Indian courts if the matter requires judgement under Indian law, which must also be done within the jurisdictional limits. The fundamental goal of this section is to prevent a person from filing repeated lawsuits against the same individual in the same matter, resulting in inconsistent decisions in each suit. It also protects the defendant from being harassed for no reason.

Directly and substantially in issue

This means the subject matter in both suits must be the same. For example, A sues B for misrepresentation throughout the contracting process. He also launches a breach of contract lawsuit against B. Because the issues at hand are not the same, Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, will not apply. This doctrine cannot be applied if the essential of having issues that are directly and substantially related is not met.

The same was established in the case of Mathew &Anr v. Sony Cyriac in respect to criminal prosecution and redemption of money for a dishonoured cheque. The court unanimously concluded in Manohar Lal Chopra v. Sait Hiralal that this section of the Code must apply mandatorily, with no exceptions, unless and unless the Court lacks jurisdiction authority or the power to award relief in a subsequent suit. In the case of Escorts Const. Equipment Ltd. v. Action Const Equipments Ltd., 1998, the requisites for invoking Section 10 were repeated. This section’s provisions are exhaustive. They include explanations as well as detailed and clear interpretations. These requirements are not optional; they must be followed by the Courts when they proceed with the trial of a case. The provisions in Section 10 are very clear and unambiguous, with an open forum for interpretation, in order to decrease the number of lawsuits involving the same subject matter and issues.

Exceptions to Section 10 of CPC

Because it is quite precise in its content and begins with the words, No Court shall proceed with the trial of any litigation, this Section shall only be utilised to stay or restrict the trial of a suit. As a result, it has been decisively established that it solely applies to the trial and not to any other relevant actions. If the matters in the issue are distinct and not directly similar but different, Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, cannot be invoked.


In the case of Abdur v. Asrafun, it was held that even if there are a few common or similar difficulties, but there are other matters that are completely distinct from the previous suit, Section 10 cannot be invoked. This Section is not applicable for litigation where the parties are the same in both suits but the matter in question isn’t the same in both suits, as explained in the case of Manzar v. Rema

There is no bar or stay of proceedings when a subsequent suit or an earlier suit is filed in a foreign court that is not created or under the control of the Central Government of India or the Supreme Court of India. Interlocutory or any Interim Orders are also well-established exceptions to the Res Subjudice Doctrine. Even without proceeding with the trial, some orders are passed, and such orders cannot necessarily involve Section 10. This demonstrates that Section 10 and the Doctrine of Res Subjudice can only be used to stop trials and cannot be used to stop other interim orders made by the Court of Law. In the case of Sennaji Kapuechand v. Pannaji Devachand, this was strongly established.

The inherent power of the court to stay suits

The courts have the authority to issue an order to stay later litigation if it meets the provisions of this section. However, this Section does not preclude the Court’s inherent powers, which are protected under Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure. Even though a suit does not fall under Section 10 of the Code, the courts can use their inherent powers to stay the suit in order to better serve justice.  The Courts may also issue an order to stop the former suit under Section 151 of the Code, which is not available under Section 10 of the Code. This Inherent Power of the Court can also be thought of as an exception to Section 10 of the Code as well as a court’s particular right. Under Section 151, the Court has also the inherent power to consolidate substantially similar matters between the same or different parties as per the relevant circumstances.

Suit pending in foreign court

The explanation clause of Section 10 clearly states that an Indian court’s power to try a subsequently instituted suit is unaffected if the earlier instituted suit is pending in a foreign court. This also means that the cases can be heard in two courts at the same time.

The goal of Section 10 is to prevent two courts from making inconsistent conclusions in the same case. To get around this, the courts can require the two lawsuits to be consolidated. It was explained in the case of Anurag and Co. and Anr. v. Additional District Judge and Others that consolidation of suits is ordered under Section 151 for the purposes of meeting the ends of justice since it saves the party from several proceedings, delays, and expenses. The parties are also relieved of having to produce the same evidence twice.

Effect of contravention

A decree issued in violation of Section 10 is not null and void and, as a result, cannot be ignored in execution proceedings. Only the trial, not the filing of a subsequent suit, is prohibited under this provision of Section 10. As a result, it establishes a straightforward procedural norm that can be waived by the parties. As a result, if the parties expressly relinquish their right and ask the court to proceed with the second litigation, the validity of the subsequent proceedings cannot be challenged later.Landmark cases

  1. Dees Piston v. State Bank of India

In this case, the petitioner already had his matter pending in the District forum, Jaipur with the same subject matter and between the same parties. The National Consumer Redressal Commission held that when an issue is pending before a competent court of law, the National Commission has no competence to accept a petition in respect of an identical subject matter under the Consumer Protection Act. It noted that it is open for the petitioner to raise all the contentions in the District forum itself where the matter is already pending. The Commission reiterated that when a matter is subjudice in a competent court, this commission shall not interfere and entertain identical subject matter between the same parties, and the doctrine of Res sub-judice will apply.

2. Anurag and Co. and Anr. V. Additional District Judge and others

A matter was pending before the Additional District Judge, Sikar in which the plaintiffs filed four separate civil suits against a common defendant for the recovery of a different amount, due on different dates in favour of four different plaintiffs. The defendant was common. The defendant prayed for the consolidation of all four matters. The Additional District Judge observed that the four different civil suits for recovery of money cannot be consolidated as the plaintiffs are different, cause of action, and amount are different. The suits cannot be consolidated merely on the ground that the defendant is common.

The matter reached Rajasthan High Court and the court observed that under section 151 of the Code, the consolidation of actions is considered in order to assist justice and fairness to both parties. It also safeguards the party from a plethora of cases, delays, and frivolous litigation. The parties are also relieved of having to present the same evidence twice. However in the given situation when there is no substantial similarity between the parties and issues involved, and even the cause of action arose on different dates and the burden of proof lies on different plaintiffs, and also the matter is pending before the same court, the Court formed the view that there exists no relevant circumstance for consolidation and the non- consolidation by the Additional District Judge does not defeat the purpose.

3. Maharashtra State Co-Operative v. Indian Bank

The point of issue, in this case, was whether the doctrine of res sub-judice will apply to summary suits under Order XXXVIII of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. In this case, Indian Bank filed a summary suit for the recovery of a particular amount. In the same suit, Maharashtra State Cop. Marketing Federation, the other party, objected to staying the suit as the matter was directly and substantially in issue in a previous suit filed in 1991 which was already pending.  The Court held that where the matter is ongoing before the appropriate court and the subject matter is directly and essentially the same in a previously launched suit between the same parties, the Civil Court should not proceed with the trial of the complaint in order to give the relief sought.

4. National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences v C Parameshwara, 2005

The issue was whether a previous suit filed under Section 10 read with Section 151 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 seeking a stay of civil suit was maintainable. The Court held that the purpose of this clause is to avoid courts of concurrent jurisdiction (in some situations, more than one court may have jurisdiction to hear a dispute) from hearing two parallel litigations in relation to the same dispute at the same time. However, the whole subject matter has to be identical. Section 10 is preferable to a suit instituted in a civil court. The scope of a Writ petition is entirely different from a normal civil suit. The Court also observed that the inherent power under Section 151 cannot be exercised to nullify the provisions of the code.

Conclusion

Res Sub-judice is the provision given in Section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 to stay or put an injunction on a subsequent suit if the matter in the subsequent suit is directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit between the same parties before a competent court. The essential elements which are necessary to be met before the application of Section 10 are that the parties in both the suit (previous and subsequent) must be the same, the matter in both the suit must be directly and substantially the same, the previous court must be competent to provide the relief claimed, and that the parties must be contesting under the same title. The purpose of the provision of res-subjudice is to avoid multiplicity of proceedings and save the resources of the court and the parties and also to avoid a situation of inconsistent rulings in cases related to the same issue. The Court can pass interim orders such as temporary injunction, attachment orders, amendment of plaint or written statement, the appointment of a receiver, etc. There are certain exceptions to this provision as well; that if the matter is pending before a foreign court, the parties can move to Indian courts to get relief. There is no bar on the competency of Indian Courts to try as suit if the suit is previously sub judice in a foreign court.  Also, the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 provides some inherent powers under its Section 151 under which the Court can stay the proceeding in a subsequent suit even when the essentials of Section 10 are not strictly met, to serve the ends of justice Similarly the Court has inherent power to consolidate different suits between the same parties when the matter in issue is directly and substantially the same.

Reference

  1. https://lawcirca.com/what-is-the-rule-of-res-sub-judice-under-cpc/.

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