Author:- Himanshu Ranjan, Senior Associate, All India Legal Forum
The doctrine of Res judicata is ancient and historical worldwide. When we talk about that in India, the Civil procedure code 1908 under section 11 has defined the principle of Res judicata. After that, the administrative law accepted it. Similarly, the Indian legal system covered that concept in other statutes and acts. In this article, we discuss the doctrine of Res judicata under the Civil procedure code and various factors of that doctrine. Also, we know the aims and motto for including that concept in the Indian legal system of India.
What is res judicata in CPC?
The res judicata means any matter or dispute the court already decides; then, there cannot be again in the court with the same subject matter. In other words, we can say that a party cannot put his case twice to the court with the same subject matter, which the court has already decided. If a party does so, it has been a bar of res judicata. Suppose a party does like that; he shall be a bar of res judicata because the court has no power to put a new trial of any suit or subject matter which is previously decided between the same parties of the suit.
Know what is the principle of res judicata under section 11 of CPC says?
The principle of the doctrine of res judicata is defined under section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code 1908. This doctrine clearly says that the matter ordered in a previous suit by the court cannot be tried in a fresh suit between the same parties. The aim of this doctrine is that no one can be put in twice litigation for the same reason. According to that principle, the judiciary pronounces a decision that must be accepted as accurate and correct at the end of litigation.
This view is taken in U.P. State Road Transport Corporation vs. State of U.P. and another, (AIR 2005 SC 446). The Supreme Court rightly observed that The principle of res judicata is based on the need to give finality to judicial decisions. The principle which prevents the same case from being twice litigated is of general application and is not limited by the specific words of S. 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure in this respect. Res judicata also applies as between two stages in the same litigation to this extent that a Court, whether the trial court or a higher court having at an earlier stage decided a matter in one way will not allow the parties to re-agitate the matter again at a subsequent stage of the same proceedings.
What is the importance of res judicata?
Res judicata play a vital role in making equivalent right among competing interests—the primary aim is to create an accurate, effective judicial system that makes it finally.
Res judicata covered three roman maxims that are given below;
- The first one is Nemo debet lis caxari pro eadem causa; that means no one can be vexed or harassed more then one time for the same cause of action.
- The second one is Interest republicae ut sit finis litium; it means the end of litigation should be the state interest.
- And the third one is Re judicata pro veritate occipitur; it means the court decision should be considered true.
Which pre-conditions apply for the res judicata?
The plea of res judicata embodied some requirements that are necessary to be fulfilled as per the provision of Section 11 of the Civil procedure code; which is given below;
- The subject matter or issue of the subsequent suit must be involved in the former suit that was decided previously.
- The suit parties of the former and subsequent suit must be the same.
- The lawsuit must be a verdict between the parties of the suit.
- A competent court must decide the case with its competent jurisdiction.
- The litigation between the parties must be invoked under the same title in the former and subsequent suit.
Here one thing we should note is that the matter of res judicata should be claimed by the parties of the suit; otherwise, it cannot be issued by the trial court, in sort that the court cannot raise the issue via suo motto. There is no jurisdiction of the court to raise the issue of res judicata and act upon it; unless the suit parties do not raise the issue of res judicata before the trial court.
In the case of matter in issue:
The right to litigation is indeed a fundamental right of the people; anyone can make his grievance against another party on the fact that he believes as well as on the based of law which is applicable to determine that fact. Therefore we can say that the issue is one kind of expression of a matter of issue which occurs to the right of litigation. That issue may be based only on the fact or law, or that may be mixed based on facts and law that depend on the subject matter of the issue.
If the matter of issue directly invokes a former suit that may be covered as Res judicata in a subsequent suit. The parties of the suit cannot raise the same issue by filing another suit proceeding.
The issue of law can be counted as a res judicata if the following terms are fulfilled between the same parties in a former suit;
- If the cause of action invoke in a subsequence suit is the same as the previous proceeding.
- If the earlier decision is pronounced by the court not be altered or modified by the competent authority.
- Suppose parties make a twice trial made within the same jurisdiction of the court. For example, the former suit and subsequence suit within the same jurisdiction for the same subject matter.
- An earlier decision pronounced by the court is not declared invalid or prohibited by law.
Explanation; When the matter is directly and subsequently an issue between the same parties:
If we refer to the provision of section 11 of the civil procedure code 1908, there is a specific mention that an issue must have been covered in the subsequent issue in a former suit. However, there is no hard and fast rule which determines that the issue is substantial or collateral in the former suit which was filed by the parties.
In Ragho Prasad Gupta v. Krishna Poddar (AIR 1969 SC 316), the Supreme court held that the expression of opinion on a question should not be counted in the issue. Thus, it cannot operate as res judicata.
Can res judicata operate if the circumstances around the issue change?
The most crucial part of the res judicata is that it considers the identity of the subject matter in both physical and juridical sense. In the case of Mavelikkara Ex-Servicemen’s Multipurpose Co-operative Society v. Parvathy Amma Rajamma, (Civil Revision 2917 of 1983), the Kerala High Court rightly observed that the subject matter identity under the res judicata not only in be physical sense but it also is in a juridical sense.
What is the meaning of the same title which is claimed by the same parties?
In Vasudevanand Saraswati vs. Jagat Guru Shankaracharya, the Allahabad High Court rightly observed that the same title means the same capacity. The parties of the suit should be different in the eyes of the law. That’s why if the same parties enter into the litigation with a different role, the doctrine of res judicata does not operate, even of the decision of the former suit. If the parties who claim their rights are based on a different cause of action from the former suit, the subsequent suit will not bar as a res judicata because of the same property; hence, if the cause of action between the same parties of the suit is different even of the same properties. then, the doctrine of res judicata does not operate.
In Muneesh Kumar Agnihotri and others vs. Lalli Prasad Gupta, (AIR 1989 All 202), the Allahabad high court held that res judicata would operate if only the issue was the same from the former and subsequence suit between the same parties under the same title. In that case, the issue is the same, but the title of the parties is different from the former suit. The former suit was claimed by the father for the business only. But the subsequent suit was claimed for the business, which is started with the joint family funds. Therefore, the appellant is entitled to such business as well as the properties which are required through the funds of a joint family business. Here, in that case, the plea for res judicata is not accepted by the court even if the same issue.
Which court is capable of determining the subsequent suit?
When we refer to the provision of section 11 of the Civil procedure code, 1908, there specify some criteria for the capability of the court to try the further suit. As per this provision, the competent court means that the court that decided the former suit is the competent court to try the subsequence suit or the issue which arises in the subsequence suit. In Raj Lakshmi Dasi and Ors vs. Banamali Sen and Ors, (1953 AIR 33), the supreme court rightly observed that when a plea of res judicata is based on general principles of the law, there is necessary to establish that the court where the former case heard and decided is competent jurisdiction. there is no requirement to prove that the court has jurisdiction to hear the subsequence suit.
There are some criteria required to fulfill the plea of Res judicata; however, if the following terms are not satisfied, the doctrine of Res judicata does not apply.
The judgment of the former suit is obtained by fraud.
This is a crucial condition that the judgment of the previous suit must be obtained lawfully. If that obtain in a fraud manner, the doctrine of Res judicata does not apply.
When the cause of action is different from a former suit
The doctrine of Res judicata does not apply if the cause of action of the subsequence suit is different from the former suit. There is no bar to trying a fresh suit between the same parties if the cause of action of the suit is different from the previous suit.
If the order passed by the court is Interlocutory
The interlocutory order is an interim order that is not covered in the case’s final order or decree. If any interlocutory order passed on the former suit, that means it is interim order but not a final order. As per the provision of section 11 of the CPC, there is clearly mentioned that the doctrine of Res judicata will not be applied in any interim or interlocutory order. Because that type of order may be altered in the subsequence preceding in the same suit thus, it is not a final order of a suit.
If the law is changed
Sometimes it happens that the law is changed. In that case, if the new law secures new rights of the parties, then that doctrine does not apply.
When the court is not competent to decide the issue
If the former suit which ordered by a court that is not as competent to decide such an issue in that case, this doctrine does not apply in the subsequent suit.
If the party waives the decree of res judicata
It is the duty of the opposite party to take a plea to the court for the adjudication of the former suit or issue. If the party does not take such a plea of res judicata before the court, in that case, the matter may be decided against him; thus, if a party waives its right to a plea of res judicata at the first stage, then after can not be raised at the later stage of the proceedings.
Difference between Res Judicata and Estoppel
The doctrine of Res Judicata is defined under section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code,1908. the doctrine of res judicata explains that when a party lays the suit against the same party for the same subject matter or issue that the court previously decided within the jurisdiction, it will bar as per the law; res judicata will operate, which means no one can lay a lawsuit for the same subject matter or issue, against the same party which is previously verdict by the court within the competent jurisdiction.
While the doctrine of Estoppel is defined under section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act,1872. this doctrine explains that there is a legal bar for the party to say a certain statement that is not true, whether in real terms it is true or not. in other words, when a person either by his act, omission, or declaration made something to believe to be true and make agreed a person act upon it, in the later stage, he or his representative cannot deny it in the court of law.
After some similarities, there is a difference between Res judicata and Estoppel, which is given below;
- The concept of res judicata is based on public policy, which is covered in the Civil procedure code. For example, the aim of the state is to make an end to litigation. At the same time, Estoppel is related to the law of evidence, which is covered in the Indian evidence act. The concept of this principle says that a party who tries to believe something by his conduct, statement, or act that cannot be altered to take a disadvantage of that things in the court of law.
- The purpose of the res judicata is to prevent a party from multiplicities of proceedings within the same thing in the same jurisdiction. In contrast, the purpose of Estoppel is to prevent a party from making contradictory things in the court of law for taking advantage at different times.
- Res Judicata prevents that trial, which was previously trial by the court and decided. While Estoppel is counted as a piece of evidence, it is related to the fact that a party cannot return his steps, which are already taken as it is binding for him in the court of law.
- Res judicata affects both parties of the suit and binding them. In contrast, estoppel bind only that party who made a previous statement or that type of conduct.
- Resjudicata is related to the court’s jurisdiction, while Estoppel is related to the evidence produced in the court.
The concept of Res Judicata has a large sense. It is a crucial part of the Indian legal system. The Civil Procedure Code,1908, under section 11, covered the provision of Res Judicata. Accordingly, no one can try a matter twice, which is already decided in the previous suit. The concept is related to public policy. Res Judicata protects the rights of the defendant parties who may suffer from the plaintiff who tries to recover the damages twice for the same injury.