Doctrie Of Res Judicata

Author: Sivapuram V.L. Thejaswini Student, Alliance University

The term “Res judicata” means a matter that has been decided. The roots of this doctrine can be found in the Roman law. It is a common law doctrine, which has its origin from ‘rei judicatae’ which means the ‘previous judgement’.

Purpose of this doctrine –

  1. To avoid multiplicity of proceedings

  2. to put an end to the process of litigation.

  3. Prevent injustice being done to the parties in a decided suit

Section 11 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 deals with the concept of Res Judicata.

General rule – According to this doctrine, a man shall not be punished twice for the same reason.

Nature of Res Judicata –

Section 11 is merely obligatory and not directory in nature.

The judgement delivered in a previous suit can be set aside by just merely taking a plan of action to Section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 based on the grounds of fraud/collusion. Gross negligence in previous suit does not lead to collusion (or) fraud and thus act as a bar to the consequent suit[1].

Application of this doctrine – This doctrine can be applied if the issue involved in the second suit is same as that which is involved in 1st suit.

Generally this doctrine says that once if a matter has been heard and finally decided by a competent court then a second suit can’t be allowed on the same matter by the same parties. It generally saves the time of the courts, parties and avoid future litigations if any.

In cases of other proceedings;

In Daryao v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it has been held that the general rules of res judicata are also applicable to writ petitions filed under Article 32 & 226 of the Constitution[2].

In Bombay Gas Co. v. Shridhar Bhau, the provisions of res judicata are also relevant to the arbitration that is made under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947[3].

Roman Maxims upon which Res Judicata is based –

In Roman law it is referred as – one suit and one decision was enough for any single dispute.

Nemo debet lis vexari pro eaderm causa which means that “no man should be harmed/vexed twice for the same cause”

Interest republicae ut sit finis litium which means that “in the interest of the state, there should be an end to litigation”

Res judicata accipitur pro veritate which means that a judicial decision must be accepted as correct[4].

Definitions –

Spencer Sower says that;

“it is a final judicial decision that is pronounced by a judicial tribunal having competent jurisdiction in that matter of litigation and over such parties there to”

Justice Das Gupta in a simple manner explains that;

          “The doctrine of Res Judicata is based on the need of giving finality to a judicial decision”

Scope of Res Judicata –

This doctrine cannot be applied by the parties in all the suits. It specifically has to meet certain requirements to be applied.

In Satyadhyan v. Smt. Deorajini Debi, it was held that;

            “this doctrine of res judicata is based on the need of giving finality to judicial decisions. The application part comes into picture mainly between past and future litigation. When a matter either on question of law (or) question of fact has been heard and finally decided between the two parties in a suit (or) proceeding then neither of those parties will be allowed to go for a future proceeding again on the same matter. Sometimes even when Res judicata is not applied but still the courts use this under Section 11 so as to bring finality to a decision. Even in case of future litigation, the higher courts proceed on the presumption that the previous judgement was right[5]”.

In Shrinivas R. Acharya & Ors. v. Purshottam Chaturbhuj & Ors., it was given that;

            “the bar which is imposed by law on future litigation comes from the previous judgement that has been heard and finally decided between the parties in a litigation by the court having competent jurisdiction[6]”.

It was also decided that in regard of the doctrine of Res Judicata for the trial in an issue it does not refer to the date when litigation has begun, but to the date when Judge is called upon to decide the issue[7].

Essential conditions for Res Judicata –

The conditions that have been listed under Section 11 of CPC have to be satisfied for the applicability of Res Judicata;

a) Same matter in both the suits;

The matter in issue in both the suits has to be the same. Matter here means the important and necessary facts that generate the claim. The issue should be directly and substantially the same.

Explanation IV to Section 11 states that;

  1. A matter shall be directly in issue if one party makes an allegation & the other party admits/denies it expressly/impliedly.

  2. A matter shall be substantially in issue if it is essential & important to decide the case.

b) Parties must be the same;

The parties/their representatives must be the same in both the suits.

c) Title must be the same;

Title here generally refers to the legal capacity (or) interest of the parties in the suits. Parties must contest under the same title in both the suits.

d) First suit must have been heard and finally decided;

The issue that has been raised in the second (or) subsequent suit must have been decided by the competent court in the first suit itself.

e) Competency of the court;

Explanation I of Section 11 states that the court that has decided the former suit must be competent. Former suit here means the suit that has been decided first immaterial of when it has been instituted.

Criticism of this doctrine –

Sometimes people may even suffer, it may harm the innocent sometimes when the previous suit was wrongly decided.

In Sheoparsan Singh v. Ramnandan Singh, it was held that in cases of any such wrong decisions then the suffering citizen has to appeal to the law-giver and not to the lawyers[8].

Res Judicata in case of co-defendants –

The general rule of Res Judicata applies between the plaintiff & defendant. But there are some instances where it also applies between the co-defendants also.

In Iftikhar Ahmed & Ors. v. Syed Meharban Ali & Ors., it was held that the adjudication between the co-defendants will operate as res judicata in cases where there is a conflict of interest between those defendants. So this conflict has to be decided first so as to give the relief that the plaintiff is seeking for[9].

If there is no conflict of interest between the co-defendants & when conflict between the co-defendants is not adjudicated based on the merits of the case then such decision will not operate as res judicata[10].

Conclusion –

Thus we can conclude that this doctrine of res judicata is applicable only when the matter has been already decided by the competent court. And in the subsequent suit the matter must be the same as in the former suit which is directly & substantially in issue. The title, capacity of the parties must be the same. The parties to the suit must also be the same.

[1] Jallur Venkata Seshayya v. Tahdaviconda Koteswara Rao, AIR (24) 1937 P.C. 1 (India)

[2] AIR 1961 SC 1457 (India)

[3] AIR 1961 SC 1196 (India)

[4] C.K. TAKWANI, CIVIL PROCEDURE WITH LIMITATION ACT, 1963 (Abhinandan Malik, 8th edn.) 1983.

[5] AIR 1960 SC 94

[6] AIR 1953 Bom 393

[7] AIR 1927 All 189

[8] AIR 1916 P.C. 78 (India)

[9] AIR 1974 SC 749 (India)

[10] SIR DINSHAW FARDUNJI MULLA, THE KEY TO INDIAN PRACTICE, 228 (Justice Surya Kant, 11th edn.) 1994

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