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Analysis of Jamia Masjid v/s KV Rudrappa

Theme-Analysis of Jamia Masjid v. KV Rudrappa[1],

Sub-theme- Res judicata can be decided as a preliminary issue consisting of questions of fact and law.

Recently a Supreme Court bench comprised of 3 judges Dr. DY Chandrachud, Hima Kohli, and Vikram Nath gave a landmark ruling where it was decided by the 3-judge bench issue which is arising of subsequent suits may either fall in the category of the question of fact or question of law and it can fall in both categories also.

A second appeal was dismissed by a Single Judge of the High Court of Karnataka under Section 100 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908[2] while averring the decision of Trial Court and the First Appellate Court where it was held that here the suit instituted by the appellant plaintiff is barred by the principle of res judicata. Hence the appellant approached the court under a special leave petition while challenging the decision of a single judge and hence leave is granted on 8 December 2014.

Facts and Circumstance Involved
Initially while describing Jamia Masjid Gubbi in the cause title when the appellant was instituting a suit for seeking a relief:
  1. Declaring the State Wakf Board is the owner while their possession of the property in the suit it was found during a survey Gubbi village measure 2 acres and 4 guntas of non-agricultural land along with a cinema building
  2. A decree for possession against the defendant in the present case.
  3. Injunction to restrain the defendant in the present suit from interfering in the possession and enjoyment of the plaintiff's property.
  4. An application present here decree for mesne profit.

Here in the present case person named H.S Gururajarao along with his brother leased property that was in the suit for 8th December 1944. The suit, in this case, was instituted by the wakf board against the person named Abdul Khuddus and H.S. Gururajarao seeking possession of the suit property and a declaration that the property constitutes a wakf. As soon as Abdul Khuddus, died then defendants 6 to 9 took possession of the suit property.

Allegations of mismanagement of the suit property were made against them. The Chairman, D.W.C Tumkur recommended that the suit property be directly managed by the Board under section 43(A) of the Wakf Act 1954. The cause of action arose on 16 April 1983 when Defendants 1 to 4 together with other defendants interfered with the possession of the plaintiff on the strength of the sale in their favour executed by Defendants 5 to 9.

The defendant here comprising 2 to 4 filed their written statement seeking that present suit barred by res judicata also the district court in the said suit on 31st March 1954 declaring that suit of schedule property as personal property Abdul Khuddus. Then, Abdul Khuddus instituted an appeal before the High Court where he challenged the order given by the district court on 14 August 1959.

From the above situation, parties and subject matter of the first suit and the existing suit are the same and thus the suit instituted by the appellant will be res judicata. Here the representative suit filed under section 92 of CPC is binding for only parties which are named in the suit and also who are having an interest in the said matter and hence any decision in any of the previous representative suits will bind all interested parties even if they were not impleaded as a party to the suit.

In the trial court the submission made prime facie found that here Abdul Khuddus was possessing the title to the suit property and based on this it was conclusively decided that Abdul Khuddas having an absolute title, is erroneous. The court here will look that property is owned by the trust.

Considering Res Judicata as a Preliminary issue

In this case, it is emphasized on the point that determination of an application under res judicata can be only done after deducing the evidence in the trial and to support the fact present case seek reliance on the case Alka Gupta v. Narender Kumar Gupta[3] decided by a two-judge bench in this case trial court dismissed the subsequent suit based on the preliminary ground where the filing of the subsequent suit was barred under res judicata however it may be the case that on appeal the two-judge bench of the present court held that second suit could not be barred by res judicata.

The principle of res judicata bars the right of the plaintiff to have adjudication on the claim and thus his plea must be clearly established when the bar of the suit is itself based on constructive res judicata and thus plaintiff should have noticed about the plea of having the opportunity to present his case and the present case we don't see there was plea with respect to constructive res judicata and neither the plaintiff in the present said matter got the opportunity to meet the need of such plea.

The judgment noted that issues arising in any kind of subsequent suit may fall in any category either question of law or question of fact or either in both categories. If the suit is decided and there is any kind of alteration the suit would be required to face the trial for determining the plea of res judicata only when the news facts out the same situation are arising which are yet to be proved. In case the plea for res judicata may be determined as a preliminary issue when it is observed that neither any disputed question of fact nor any kind of disputed question on law nor has been left which was to be discussed.

The court while determining the plea of res judicata checks the essential as mentioned in section 11 under which states firstly that no man should be vexed twice for the same offence with respect to same litigation, secondly it is desirable that there is an end to litigation thirdly a judicial decision must be accepted as correct and if all these essential are met and on that basis, it will be seen that there is a material alteration in fact or law, as the first suit was decreed as a result arising out of the principle of res judicata, will turn out to be inapplicable.

The 3-judge bench to study the matter at length referred to the case of Syed Mohd. Salie Labbai (dead) by L. Rs v. Mohd. Hanifa[4] it was decided by the Hon'ble Supreme Court that before a plea of res judicata is passed the necessary condition needs to be fulfilled where firstly that parties contesting in litigation must be same, secondly the subject matter must be related to each other, thirdly the matter is to be decided between the parties at hand, and lastly, the court should be requisite jurisdiction to decide the matter.

Then the bench referred to the case of Alka Gupta v. Narender Kumar Gupta,[5] where it was reiterated that plea should be clearly established when there is a bar of the suit where a suit falls under the category of constructive res judicata. The plaintiff should be provided the notice of plea and also with equal opportunity for him /her to present his contention when the same person is sought against the bar of constructive res judicata.

The twin test when the issue is to found that an issue has been conclusively been decided on the previous suit:

  1. Firstly, the necessity test where it is seen that adjudication of the issue is necessary to condition for determining the principle issue.
  2. Secondly essential test where it is seen that judgment of any suit is decided on that very issue
     

Res Judicata: Question of fact or law or a mixed question of law and fact?

It is seen that the Hon'ble Supreme Court while deciding the plea of res judicata brings the mixed question of fact and law.[6]

It is to be noted that Justice Ramaswamy while referring to this case (a three-judge bench case) Sushil Kumar Mehta v. Gobind Ram Bohra,[7] held that the principle of res judicata cannot be used as a pigeonhole where there is a question Infront of court coupled with facts and laws or both depending upon the issues which had been previously been decided.

Then later three-judge bench in the case of Jamia Masjid v. KV Rudrappa [8]has referred to the case of Mathura Prasad Bajoo Jaiswal v. Dossibai N.B Jeejeebhoy[9], where it was decided that a decision which is given by a court of competent jurisdiction can result in res judicata in another proceeding even when there are same parties the matter which is in issue may either be related to issue of fact, law or either combination of both when the matter is decided between the parties and later cannot be reopened between them in any other proceeding. Any such previous decision on the matter pertaining to the issue alone is res judicata.

The matter at hand resulting in an issue if it is previously decided in the earlier proceeding by the court of competent jurisdiction must be subsequent litigation which is between the same parties which is finally decided by the court of competent jurisdiction and later the matter cannot be reopened. If the matter had mixed question of law and fact which had been decided in the earlier proceeding cannot be reopened with same reason per se in any subsequent proceeding comprising same parties.

If there is a question pertaining to law then the statute needs to be interpreted and it will be seen as res judicata in a subsequent proceeding between the parties where the cause of action is the same as the matter at hand in issue under section 11 of CPC[10] means that rights which are being litigated between the parties where the rights are being claimed or denied and applicability of law is seen for determining the issue where the question is based on the law it relates to jurisdiction of the court or a decision which is illegal by resorting to rule of res judicata where a party affected by the decision will not be precluded from just challenging the validity of any order under the rule of res judicata and rules prescribed in procedure cannot exceed the law of land.

Held
Hence the court finally decided that yes res judicata can be determined as a preliminary issue where there is particularly baggage of question comprising question from law and fact. It can be done only after every piece of evidence is determined and after the trial is completed.

End-Notes:
  1. Jamia Masjid v. KV Rudrappa 2021 SCC OnLine SC 792
  2. Civil Procedure Code, 1908, Section 100
  3. Alka Gupta v. Narender Kumar Gupta (2010) 10 SCC 141
  4. Syed Mohd. Salie Labbai (dead) by L. Rs v. Mohd. Hanifa (1976) 4 SCC 780
  5. ibib
  6. Madhukar D Shende v. Tarabai Aba Shedage, (2002) 2 SCC 85; Ram Harakh v. Hamid Ahmed Khan, (1998) 7 SCC 484
  7. Sushil Kumar Mehta v. Gobind Ram Bohra (1990) 1 SCC 193
  8. ibib
  9. Mathura Prasad Bajoo Jaiswal v. Dossibai N.B Jeejeebhoy (1970) 1 SCC 613
  10. Civil Procedure Code, 1908, Section 11

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