RES JUDICATA : CONCEPT AND APPLICABILITY

Section 11 of the code of Civil Procedure, 1908, embodies the rule of res judicata or the rule of conclusiveness of the judgment, as to the points decided either of facts, or of law, or of facts and law, in every subsequent suit between the same parties. It enacts that once a matter is finally decided by a competent Court, no party can be permitted to reopen it in a subsequent litigation.

‘Res’ means ‘subject matter’ or ‘dispute’ and ‘judicata’ means ‘adjudged’, ‘decided’ or ‘adjudicated’. ‘Res Judicata’ thus means ‘a matter adjudged’ or ‘a dispute decided’ The doctrine of res judicata is a fundamental concept based on public policy and private interest. It is applicable to civil suits, execution proceedings, arbitration proceedings, taxation matters, industrial adjudication, writ petitions, administrative orders, interim orders, criminal proceedings etc.The doctrine of Res Judicata is originated from 4 Roman maxims:

  1. Nemo debet lis vaxari pro eadem causa – It  means that no person  should be vexed annoyed, harassed  or vexed two times for the same cause
  2. Interest republicae ut sit finis litium – It means that it is in  the interest of the state that there should be an end of litigation
  3. Re judicata pro veritate occipitur – Decision of the court should be adjudged as true.
  4. Re judicata pro veritate habeturAn adjudicated thing is regarded as the truth.

Among Co-Defendants

A plaintiff filed a suit in regard to a property dispute wherein he prayed for partition of the subject property. The trial court decreed the suit, which decision was reversed by the first appellate court on an appeal by the defendant. The plaintiff then filed a letters patent appeal there against which was allowed by the said Division Bench. The facts of the matter were that earlier, the defendant and father of the plaintiff were co-defendants in two original suits relating to the same subject property filed against them. In the said suits, the court had decided in favor of the defendant’s title over the subject property. Now, therefore, in the present suit, the defendant claims applicability of the doctrine of res judicata against the plaintiff as the father of the plaintiff was a co-defendant with him in the suits wherein his title was declared over the said property. The Court cited Mahboob Sahab v. Syed Ismail wherein the Supreme Court considering the applicability o the said doctrine between co-defendants held that the four conditions must be satisfied, namely-

  1. There must be a conflict of interest between defendants concerned;
  2. It must be necessary to decide the conflict in order to give reliefs which the plaintiff claims;
  3. The question between the defendants must have been finally decided, and
  4. The co-defendants were necessary or proper parties in the former suit.

Estoppel

There is a distinction between issue estoppel and res judicata. Res judicata debars a court from exercising its jurisdiction to determine the lis or suit if it has attained finality whereas the doctrine of issue estoppel is invoked against the party. If such issue is decided against him, he would be estopped from raising the same in the latter proceedings. The doctrine of res judicata creats a different kind of estoppel viz. estoppel by Accord.

Where the Sangh has been duly represented in the previous court proceedings and were litigating bona fidely which resulted in failure cannot be allowed to lay any objection in execution or to plead nullity of decree hence doctrine of res judicata applies. The decree of ejectment will bind every member of Sangh.

Applicable to Writs

Section 11 of the Code is applicable to both the parties to a suit and not against the defendant alone. The principle of res judicata is furtherance against the court and is a mixed question of the fact and law and has to be specifically pleaded.The doctrine of res judicata also applies to writ proceedings under Article 32 of the Constitution and Supreme Court in the landmark case of Daryao v. State of UP has extensively dealt with the question of applicability of the principle of res judicata in writ proceedings and laid down certain principles.When a petition under Article 226 is considered, contested on merits and is dismissed, the decision would continue to bind the parties unless it is otherwise modified or reversed by appeal or other appropriate proceedings as prescribed under the Constitution.It would not be open to a party to ignore the said judgement and more the Supreme Court under Article 32 by an original petition made on the same facts and for obtaining the same or similar orders or writs.A dismissal of writ petition under Article 226 by any High Court not on merit but due to clutches of the petitioner or when the party have an alternative remedy available with them, the dismissal for the writ petition would not constitute a bar to a subsequent petition under Article 32. Such a dismissal may, however, constitute a bar to a subsequent application under Article 32 where and if the facts thus found by the High Court by themselves relevant even under Article 32.Whether the writ petition would constitute a bar would depend upon the nature of the order. There will no bar if the order is on merits.If the petition is dismissed in the timeline without a speaking order, such dismissal cannot be treated as creating a bar of res judicata.

Once the question has been decided by the Writ Petition cannot be reopened by subsequent appeal. It is settled law that the doctrine of Res Judicata is applied in the Writ proceedings but there is one exception to this is that plea of Res Judicata should not violate any fundamental rights of the citizen.

More applicability-In the case of Rural Litigation & Entitlement Kendra v. the State of U.P., the court held that the doctrine of the res judicata cannot be applied in the cases of Public Interest Litigation.In the case of K.V. George v. Secretary to Government, the court held that plea of Res Judicata cannot be raised in the cases of Arbitration and Rewards.The doctrine of Res Judicata is not been applied in the income tax proceedings. In the case of B.S.N.L vs. Union of India, the court held that the decision given for one assessment year does not operate as res judicata in the Subsequent year.The principle of res judicata is a procedural provision. A jurisdictional question if wrongly decided would not attract the principles of res judicata. When an order is passed without jurisdiction, the same becomes a nullity. When an order is a nullity, it cannot be supported by invoking procedural principle.First writ petition filed on the ground of apprehended bias and subsequent second petition was filed on allegations of actual bias, is not barred by res judicata.

Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure has no doubt some technical aspects for instance the rule of constructive res judicata may be said to be technical but the basis of which the said rule rests is founded on the consideration of public policy. The technical principle of res judicata would not be operative more so, if substantial change in circumstances is averred and found prima facie justified.The doctrine of res judicata is a fundamental concept based on public policy and private interest. This doctrine is applicable to civil suits, execution proceedings, arbitration proceedings, taxation matters, industrial adjudication, writ petitions, administrative orders, interim orders, criminal proceedings, etc. Thus, this doctrine is not exhaustive in nature.

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