India obtained the concept of res judicata from the Common Law system. Res Judicata has been derived from a Latin maxim which means a matter which has been decided or adjudged. It means that when a suit has already been decided by a competent court, then another suit by the same parties on the same subject matter will be dismissed if filed before another court. This doctrine can be attracted in both civil as well as criminal matters.
This doctrine is based on the principles of justice, equity and good conscience. The purpose of this principle is to prevent the filing of multiple suits on the same issue and to save the time and resources of the court. Thus, this principle prevents the abuse of law through unscrupulous activities. Furthermore, it prevents the plaintiff from obtaining multiple judgments against the defendant for the same offense.
The principle of res judicata is characterized by the three maxims:
- nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa which means that no person shall have to undergo a second trial for the same issue
- interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium which means that a final judgment and an end to litigation is for the welfare of the state
- res judicata pro veritate occipitur which means that a judgment pronounced must be acknowledged as correct
PROVISIONS RELATING TO RES JUDICATA
Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 provides the doctrine of res judicata. It provides that where a case has been finally decided by a competent court, no other court will be empowered to hear the suit in which the issue raised is “directly and substantially” similar to the issue raised in the previous suit.
However, where the court decides to hear an appeal against an earlier judgment on the same merits and pronounces a verdict, the latter judgment has an overriding effect on the earlier judgment.
In the case of Raju Ramsing Vasave vs Mahesh Deorao Bhivapurkar & Ors, the Supreme Court observed that the principle of res judicata could be made applicable even in a wrong judgment and the recognized three exceptions to this principle:
- When a court passes a judgment without having the requisite jurisdiction
- When the issue before the court raises a pure question of law
- When fraud is committed in order to obtain the judgment.
In the case of Pukhraj D. Jain & Ors vs G. Gopalakrishna, the Supreme Court held that a subsequent suit can be decided by the court if the court believes that the suit is based on a purely legal issue. Thus, we see that the Courts can exercise their discretion while dismissing a subsequent suit under the principle of res judicata.
The doctrine of res judicata is certainly an essential and much-needed component of the Indian Legal System. In the absence of this doctrine, there will never be any final judgment and there will be no end to litigation. Thus, we see that the purpose of this principle is to promote the welfare and the interests of the public at large.
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