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Lal Chand (Dead) By L.R v/s Radha Kishan: A comprehensive case analysis

There are various major questions of Law which are of importance in the present case them being, firstly, the principle of Res Judicata as enshrined in Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter CPC), secondly, principles and rules laid down as under Order 41, Rule 4, of the CPC, and lastly principles surrounding the Jurisdiction of the Civil Court enshrined in Section 9 of the CPC.

The principle of ex captio res judicata i.e. Res Judicata, propound that a matter once decided, with respect to a subject matter, parties, and cause of action, by a competent court must act as a bar to the filing a subsequent suit on the same.

The principles laid down in Order 41, Rule 4 of the CPC, explain the principles of appeals with relation to suits entailing multiple Plaintiffs/ Petitioners/ Defendants/ Respondents. Lastly the principles under Section 9, explain the inherent Jurisdiction of the Civil Court.

Analysis of Relevant Provisions:
While analysing the aforementioned cases the following Issues with respect to the provisions of the CPC are evidently raised:
  1. Whether or not the abatement of an appeal against an ejectment decree on death of one of several tenants defendants is justified?
  2. Whether or not the Court had the Jurisdiction to try the matter?
  3. Whether or not the Suit is barred by the principle of Res Judicata and Section 11 of the CPC?

A) Abatement - Whether Justified:

The general rule is that on an appeal by one of the several plaintiffs or defendants, an appellate court can reverse or vary the decree of the trial court only in favour of the party appealing. However Order 41, Rule 4 is an exception to this general notion and clarifies that any one of several plaintiffs or defendants may obtain reversal of ‘whole decree' where it proceeds on ground common to all. Therefore even if one of the Plaintiffs/ Defendants expires, and the legal representatives do not inherit any legal right, the other Plaintiffs or Defendants may pursue for reversal of the any Decree, even in favour of the deceased Plaintiff.

In the present matter a contention put forth by the Counsel on behalf of the Respondent on the ground that by reason of the ejectment decree (1st Matter) Lal Chand had ceased to be a tenant, and upon his death during the pendency of the appeal, the right to sue did not survive to his heirs.

Critical Analysis:
However on a bare perusal of Order 41, Rule 4 of the CPC, it is evident in the present factual matrix that, Firstly, the suit out of which this appeal arises was filed by the Respondent not only against Lal Chand but against Kesho Ram and Jhangi Ram also, who were Defendants 2 and 3 and the subsequent appeal was filed by them collectively. Secondly, Defendant 2 and 3 were equally aggrieved by the ejectment decree and they were entitled to an equal protection of the Slum Clearance Act. Therefore the Court erred in not recognizing that the other parties were empowered in seeking reversal of the earlier decree.

B) Jurisdiction:

Section 9 CPC[1], deals with the jurisdiction of Civil Courts in India. It says that the courts shall have jurisdiction to try all suits of a civil nature excepting suits of which their cognizance is either expressly or impliedly barred.

Therefore, it is evident from the language of Section 9 that the Civil Court has Jurisdiction to entertain any matter which is of civil nature i.e. any matter affecting private rights and obligations of a citizen. However at this juncture it may be clarified that it is not Section 9 which confers a vast Jurisdiction upon the Civil Court, Per Contra, the Civil Court has inherent Jurisdiction to entertain any matter which Civil in nature.

Restriction: However, a Civil Court may not entertain any matter in which its Jurisdiction is expressly or impliedly barred, i.e. any matter in which either a separate statute or the CPC itself bars may not be entertained by the Civil Courts, as it is at the exclusion of its inherent Jurisdiction. For example, Consumer Forums, are empowered with primary Jurisdiction with respect to any matter related to a consumer dispute.

Critical Analysis:
In the present matter this principle has been strictly applied, since on a combined reading of Section 19 (a) and Section 37 A of Slum Clearance Act[2] it is evident that the Jurisdiction of the Civil Court has specifically been excluded. Therefore the Court was not competent in entertaining the present matter.

C) Res Judicata:

The principle of Res Judicata or ex captio res judicata is embodied under Section 11 CPC, it follows the principle of the rule of conclusiveness of a decree, judgement. Such a judgement may be with respect to questions of Law, Fact or both.

The principle being that if a judgement given by a competent Court, did not hold a final and conclusive value the parties would endless indulge in continuous litigation, and cause constant trouble, harassment and unnecessary expenses to the opposing party.[3]

Therefore on a bare perusal of the provision itself it is clear that no cause of action which has firstly, directly and substantially in issue has been directly and substantially in issue in a former suit Secondly between the same parties, thirdly before a competent Authority, fourthly litigating under the same title, fifthly which has already been decided by such competent authority shall be the subject matter of a fresh Litigation.

Critical Analysis:
It is evident in the present matter the principles of Res Judicata formed an important part of allowing the appeal and the dismissal of the High Court order, since the matter had already been decided upon by a competent authority being the Chief Commissioner of Delhi, as under Section 20 of the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act, 1956 the matter rests Res Judicata, i.e. already conclusively decided. It was also held that, the earlier lower Court order was not of importance, as the Lower Court did not possess the Jurisdiction to entertain that matter.

Recent Developments:
The conditions as laid down for the principle of Res Judicata to be applicable has been affirmed in various cases.[4] These restrictions and conditions on the applicability of the principle have also been reaffirmed in various recent matters of Bhalki v. Gurappa[5] and also in the matter of Gangai Vinayagar Temple v. Meenakshi Ammal.[6]

Furthermore, the principle has also been extended to include scenarios wherein the issue essentially was different however in order to contest that issue another issue had to be relied upon, in such a matter if a decision in the first issue impliedly decides the later, such a decision would be barred by Res Judicata[7]. Lastly, various provisions pertaining to the application of the Doctrine of Res Judicata between Co-defendants, has also been affirmed in contemporary matters.[8]

Conclusion and Suggestions
In the case at hand the appeal was dismissed, and the erroneous order of the High Court was overruled. However on a keen perusal of the judgement it may be observed that the applicability of the principle of Res Judicata, Section 9 of the CPC as well as Order 41, Rule 4 of the CPC, were only understood and applied, in the final appeal before the Supreme Court, the matter had been heard before 7 Competent Authorities prior to this, however none of them succeeded in taking cognizance of these principles. Such a failure hints towards the deteriorating quality of the Judges in the Lower Judiciary, such a flaw must be identified and rectified at an early stage itself to avoid unnecessary litigation.

End-Notes:
  1. Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 - Section 9 ­- Jurisdiction of Civil Courts.
  2. Slum Areas (improvement And Clearance) Act, 1956 - Section 19(1) and Section 37 A.
  3. Satyadhayn Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi, AIR 1960 SC 941; Daryao v. State of UP., AIR 1961 SC 1457; Pandurang Ramachandra v. Shantibai Ramchandra, 1989 Supp (2) SCC 627; Supreme Court Employees Welfare Association v. Union of India, 1989 (4) SCC 187, LIC v. India Automobiles & Co., 1994 SCC 286; Sushil Kumar v. Gobind Ram, 1991 SCC 193; Sulochana Amma v. Narayanan Nair, (1994) 2 SCC 14; Gangai Vinayagar Temple v. Meenakshi Ammal, (2009) 9 SCC 757.
  4. supra note 3.
  5. Bhalki v. Gurappa, (2016) 2 SCC 200.
  6. Gangai Vinayagar Temple v. Meenakshi Ammal, (2015) 3 SCC 624.
  7. Pondicherry Khadi and Village Industries Board v. P. Kulothangan., (2004) 1 SCC 68.
  8. State of Gujrat v. Dilipbhai Shaligram Patil, (2006) 8 SCC 72; Makhija Construction and Engg. (P) Ltd. v. Indore Development Authority, (2005) 6 SCC 304; Amarendra Komalam v. Usha Sinha, (2005) 2 SCC 251.

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