Picture courtesy: http://musicians4freedom.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/gavel-500×338.jpg
This article was written by Arunima Banerjee a student of University of Calcutta.
Res Judicata is the Latin term for “a matter already judged” and refers to the legal doctrine which prohibits the continued litigation of cases, between the same parties, which have already been heard and finally decided by a competent court. The doctrine of Res Judicata is based on various Latin maxims. The three maxims which are most important to the doctrine are as follows:
- Nemo Debet Lis Vaxari Pro Eadem Causa which means that no man should be tormented twice for the same cause.
- Interest Republicae Ut Sit Finis Litium which means that it is in the interest of the State that there should be an end to a litigation.
- Res Judicata Pro Veritate Occipitur which means that a judicial decision must be accepted as correct.
Res Judicata under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 deals with the doctrine of Res Judicata. It enacts that once a matter is finally decided by a competent Court, no party should be permitted to reopen the same matter in a subsequent litigation. It was realised that in the absence of the principle of Res Judicata, there will be no end to litigation and the parties would be put through constant trouble, harassment and expenses.
Section 11 says: “No Court shall try any suit or issue in which the matter directly and substantially in issue has been directly and substantially in issue in a former suit between the same parties, or between parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title, in a Court competent to try such subsequent suit or the suit in which such issue has been subsequently raised, and has been heard and finally decided by such Court.”
The Definition given in section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is backed by 8 explanations. Some of the important explanations are as follows:
- Explanation 1 states that a former suit means a suit which has been decide by a court before the suit in question. It is immaterial whether or not such former suit was instituted after the current suit in question.
- Explanation 3 states that the matter in the current suit must as the same as the matter in the previous suit. It is necessary that such matter was alleged by one party in the previous and was either denied or admitted, impliedly or expressly, by the other party.
- Explanation 4 states that any matter which was made a ground of defence or attack in the previous suit will be considered to be a matter directly or substantially in issue in the current suit.
- Explanation 8 states that a matter which was heard and finally decided by a court having limited jurisdiction but competent to decide such issue will operate as res judicata notwithstanding whether or not such court was competent to try such subsequent suits or issues which were subsequently raised.
Essential Elements of Res Judicata
The definition of Res Judicata under section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 gives the essential elements that are needed to be fulfilled for a person to obtain protection under the discipline of Res Judicata:
- The matter of both the previous and current case should be same
- The previous as well as the current suit should be between the same parties or between parties under whom they are or any of them claim.
- Such parties must have been litigating under the same title.
- The subsequent suit or the suit in which the issue is subsequently raised must be competent to try such subsequent suits or issues.
- The matter directly or substantially in issue in the current suit must have been heard and finally decided by a competent court in the previous suit.
It should also be mentioned that the onus of proof lies on the party relying on the theory of Res Judicata.
Exception to application of Res Judicata
The purpose of Res Judicata is not to restrict the process of appeal. Appeals are considered to be a better option to challenge a judgement than trying a new trial. Once the appeals process is exhausted or waived, Res Judicata will apply even to a judgement that is contrary to law.
The provisions of Section 11 of the Code are mandatory and the ordinary litigant who claim under one of the parties to the former suit can only avoid its provisions by taking advantage of Section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 which defined with precision the ground of such evidence as fraud or collusion. It is not for the Court to treat negligence or gross negligence as fraud or collusion unless fraud or collusion is the proper inference from facts.
Failure to Apply
When a subsequent Court fails to apply Res Judicata and a give contradictory verdict on the same claim or issue, a third Court which is faced with the same case will likely apply “last in time” rule. In doing so, the third court will give effect only to the latter judgement, even though the result came out differently the second time.
Beliram & brothers and others v/s Chaudari Mohammed Afzal and others: It was decided in this case that if it is established that the minor suit was brought by a person who is not the bonafide guardian of the minor the case will be a fictitious suit, the decree obtained will be declared to be obtained by fraud and it will fall under the meaning of Section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. Thus, the principle of Res Judicata will not apply to such cases. Section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 can modify Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure and the principle of Res Judicata will not apply if any of the three grounds mentioned in Section 44 exists.
Kesar Das Rajan Singh v/s Parma Nand Vishan Dass, 1959: In this case the plaintiff filed a case on the basis of a promissory note. However, the plaintiff himself had to leave the country as result of which he was unable to provide his advocate with the promissory note. As a consequence of which the suit got dismissed. Upon his return from the foreign country, the plaintiff filed another case in the local Courts. The defendant took the plea of Res Judicata and the Court decided that since the previous suit was dismissed and not properly decided, the principle of Res Judicata will not apply to the latter suit.
Sunil Dutt v/s Union of India: In this case it was decide that Res Judicata will not be applicable in Habeas Corpus petitions which have been filed under changed circumstances and which includes fresh grounds.
Satyadhan Ghosal v/s Deorajan Deb: In this case Honourable Justice Das Gupta had said that the doctrine of Res Judicata is based on the need to give finality to judicial decisions.
Important Web References:
- http://www.legalserviceindia.com/articles/rju.htm for in depth study of the principle of Res Judicata.
- http://www.legalserviceindia.com/article/l454-Res-Judicata.html for Res Judicata under Code of Civil Procedure, 1908
- http://www.vakilno1.com/bareacts/laws/civil-procedure-code-1908.html for Code of Civil Procedure bare act.
- https://indiankanoon.org/doc/1326950/ for section 44 of Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
- https://indiankanoon.org/search/?formInput=section%2011%20res%20judicata for other cases relating to Res Judicata defined under section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure.