Res Judicata


 Res means “subject matter” and judicata means “adjudged” or decided and together it means “a matter adjudged”. In general words, the thing has been judged by the court, the issue before a court has already been decided by another court and between the same parties. Therefore, the court will dismiss the case as it has been decided by another court. Res judicata applies to both civil as well as criminal legal systems. Any suit which has been directly or indirectly tried in a former suit cannot be tried again.  

This principle seeks to promote the fair administration of justice and honesty and to prevent the law from abuse. Res judicata applies when a litigant attempts to file a subsequent lawsuit on the same matter, after having received a judgment in a previous case involving the same parties. In numerous jurisdictions, this applies not only to the specific claims made in the first case but also to claims that could have been made during the same case.

Principle of Res Judicata

It is founded upon the principles of justice, equity, and good conscience and it applies to various civil suits and criminal proceedings. The purpose of this principle was to promote finality into litigation.

Pre-requisites of res judicata include:

 • A judicial decision by proficient court or tribunal,

• Final and binding and

• Any decision made on the merits

• A fair hearing

• Earlier decision right or wrong is not relevant.

Res judicata includes two concepts of claim preclusion and issue preclusion. Issue preclusion is also known as collateral estoppel. Parties cannot sue each other again after the final judgment on the basis of merits has reached in civil litigation.

The scope has been decided in the case of Gulam Abbas v. State of Uttar Pradesh. In this case, the court includes the rules as evidence as a plea of an issue already tries in an earlier case. Judgment of this case was difficult as the judges should apply res judicata. It was held that res judicata is not exhaustive and even if the matter is not directly covered under the provisions of the section it will be considered as a case of res judicata on general principles.

When a court fails to apply Res Judicata and renders a contrasting verdict on the same claim or issue and if the third court faces the same issue, it will apply a “last in time” rule. It gives effect to the later judgment and it does not matter about the result that came differently in the second time. This situation is typically the responsibility of the parties to the suit to bring the earlier case to the judge’s attention, and the judge must decide how to apply it, whether to recognize it in the first place.

According to section 11 of the Civil Procedure Court, this section incorporates that doctrine of res judicata also known as “rule of conclusiveness of judgment”. The rule of constructive res judicata in this section is an artificial form of res judicata. It provides that if a plea has been taken by a party in a proceeding between him and the defendant he will not be permitted to take pleas against the same party in the following proceeding with reference to the same matter. It is opposed to public policies on which the principle of res judicata is based. It would mean harassment and hardship to the defendant. It helps in raising the bar. Hence this rule is known as the rule of constructive res judicata which in reality is an aspect of augmentation of the general principles of res judicata.

The principle of res judicata would not apply to the case until the conditions are fulfilled. The essential condition for the applicability is that the succeeding suit or proceeding is founded on the same cause of action on which the former suit was founded.

The principle of res judicata can be defeated when the party has filed the suit on a reasonable ground for example in case public interest litigation has been filed there is no reason to extend the doctrine of res judicata. The PIL has been filed with a bona fide intention and the litigation cannot end.

Landmark Cases

Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi [1]–

When a matter, whether on a question of fact or law, has been decided between two parties in one suit and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to the higher court, or no appeal lies in such case, neither party will be allowed in the future suit between the same parties to canvass the matter again.

Daryao v. State of Uttar Pradesh [2] –

The principle of res judicata is of universal application was established. The Supreme Court placed the doctrine of res judicata on a still broader foundation. The court held that the rule of res judicata applies to a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution. If a petition is filed by the petitioner in the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution and it is dismissed on the basis of merits, it would be operated as res judicata to bar a similar petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

P.C. Ray and Company Private Limited v. Union of India [3] –

 It was held that the plea of res judicata may be waived by a party to a proceeding. If a defendant does not raise the defence of res judicata then it will be waived. The principle of res judicata belongs to the procedure and either party can waive the plea of res judicata. The court can decline the question of res judicata on the ground that it has not been raised in the proceedings.


 The Doctrine of Res Judicata can be understood as something which restrains the either party to “move the clock back” during the pendency of the proceedings. The scope of it is wide and it includes a lot of things which even includes Public Interest Litigations. It is applicable even outside the Code of Civil Procedure and covers a lot of areas which are related to the society and people. The scope of it has widened with the passage of time and the Supreme Court has enlarged the areas with its judgments.


[1] AIR 1960 SC 941

[2] 1961 AIR 1457

[3] AIR 1971 Cal 512

[4] IP Massey, Administrative Law (Eastern Book Company, Lucknow, 9th Edition, 2017)


[6],considered%20relevant%20for%2 0national%20defense.


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