Doctrine of Res Judicata

“Res judicata pro veritate accipitur” is the Latin maxim for the Doctrine of Res Judicata which means the decision of the court should be adjudicated as true. It is one of the oldest doctrines in the history of the world. The roots of this doctrine can be found in the various ancient legal systems such as German and Roman.

In the early days of England, there was no existence of concept like Res judicata, but later court revised the foreign analogies and drafted their own doctrine of the Res judicata. In Indian legal system, this doctrine is adopted from common law.

Concept of Res judicata under CPC

Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 includes the principle of res judicata. It means that no court will have the power to try any fresh suit or issues which has been already settled in the former suit between the same parties. The court will not try the suits and issue between those parties under whom the same parties are litigating under the same title and matter are already been judged and decided by the competent court. If the court finds any suits or issues which has been already decided by the court and there is no appeal pending before in any court, the court has the power to dispose of the case by granting a decree of Res Judicata. It is applied by the court where issues directly and substantially involved between the same parties in the former and present suit, are same. In Satyadhan Ghosal v. Deorajan Debi Hon’ble Mr. Justice Das Gupta said that ‘the principle of Res Judicata is based on the need of giving finality to the judicial decisions’.

The pre-requisites which are necessary for Res Judicata are:

1) There must be a final judgment;

2) The judgment must be on the merits;

3) The claims must be the same in the first and second suits;

4) The parties in the second action must be the same as those in the first, or have been

represented by a party to the prior action.

Scope of Res judicata

The scope of the principle of Res Judicata is not confined to what is contained in Section 11 but is of more general application. It has been very well explained in the case of Gulam Abbas vs. State of U.P. where the code embodies the rules of conclusiveness as evidence or bars as a plea of an issue tried in an earlier suit founded on a plaint in which the matter is directly and substantially an issue becomes final. This doctrine has wider application and is applicable to the Administrative law where the it works as a working principle and has been adopted or taken from Code of Civil Procedure. Further, in constitutional law a subsequent writ petition cannot be moved against the judgement of a petition in a particular High Court. The judgement can be of any nature and of any High Court, but that order cannot be in any sense be challenged.

Rationale

This doctrine of the Res Judicata is based on the Public policy and this principle is intended not only to prevent a new decision but also to prevent a new investigation so that the same person cannot be harassed repeatedly in various suits upon the same question.

Judicial Interpretation

The Doctrine of Res judicata has very wide extent which is interpreted differently in different facts and circumstances. Following are some judicial interpretation of Res Judicata in Indian courts:

In Ramji Gupta vs. Gopi Krishan Agrawal, AIR 2013 SC 3099; it was observed that in order to operate this doctrine, the findings must be such, that it disposes of a matter that is directly and substantially in issue in the former suit and that said issue must have been heard and finally decided by the court trying that suit. A matter which is collaterally or incidentally in issue for the purpose of deciding a matter which is directly in issue in the case, cannot be made the basis for a plea of res judicata.

In Management of Sonepat Co-op. Sugar Mills ltd. Vs. Ajit Singh, AIR 2005 SC 1050; Hon’ble court observed that 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.

In G.N. Nayak vs. Goa University, AIR 2002 SC 790; it was held that the 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.

References:

The Civil Procedure Code, 1908

https://blog.ipleaders.in/res-judicata-under-civil-procedure-code-1908

https://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l454-Res-Judicata.html

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