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Maintainability Of Suit With Reference To Res Judicata

Doctrine of 'Res Judicata' is a well settled doctrine in civil law as well as in common law. The principle of Res-Judicata is also called as the backbone of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908. Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure clearly states that once a suit is finally adjudicated by a court of competent jurisdiction on merits, involving of same parties, with same title and with same question, then no aggrieved party is allowed to open up the same matter again in the subsequent litigation.

Res Judicate finds its place in Section - 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 and the bare provision of section -11 states that:
"No court shall be allowed to try any suit involving of same parties with same question which has been tried by that court or any other court competent to try that suit earlier on merits".[1]

The said section clearly says that the subsequent suit which are being filed in the competent court and being decided earlier than the provision of Res-Judicata will come in force. The term Res-Judicata is a Latin maxim and has been derived from Latin words 'Res' and 'Judicata'. Res stands for affair or matter and Judicata stands for adjudicated or judged.

Hence, the etymological meaning, is therefore, "a judged matter" and this term is collectively called as the matter or dispute which has been already decided or adjudicated. Res-Judicata is also known as Rule of Conclusiveness. Therefore, this doctrine is often invoked by the parties during trial to claim for rejection of a plaint.

This doctrine is completely based on the principle of justice, equity and good-conscience which clearly means that there is no multiplicity of the matter and disputes, it also makes sure that the decree holder may not be harassed by the judgement debtor by filing same suit of same question again in the court.

This doctrine stops them from incrementing judgement over the same matter, because for the same issue, a winning plaintiff cannot obtain compensation from the defendant continuously and also ensures that the precious time of court does not go into vain by deciding the adjudicated matter. The theory of Res Judicata is formulate in the greater public interest, which means that all cases must come to an end earlier than later.

This doctrine is based on 3 Roman maxims[2]:

  1. 'Nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa (no man should be vexed for the same cause).
  2. Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium (it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to a litigation); and
  3. Res Judicata Pro Veritate Occipitur (a judicial decision must be accepted as correct)."

Brief History and Origin of Res Judicata

The doctrine of Res Judicata is one of the oldest doctrines in the history of the world. This vigorous concept of Res Judicata is evolved from English Common Law System. This doctrine was first taken in Code of Civil Procedure from Common Law and which was later as a whole was included into Indian Legal System.

The administrative law witnesses its applicability from the Civil Procedure Code. The concept of Res Judicata began to be included in other acts and legislation within its ambit. In a case, if either of the parties knock the door of the competent court for the judgement of the same issue then the suit will be struck by the doctrine of Res Judicata. This notion plays a vital role in administrative law as well. It helps to administer how efficiently the judiciary work and disposes of the case.

When the same parties and same facts are presented in more than one petition filed in same or any competent court in India, then the doctrine of Res Judicata becomes applicable. The parties engaged in a case may re-file the same law suit only for the purpose of harassing the reputation of the other party or to seek double compensation.

The theory of Res Judicata therefore plays a significant function and relevance in the Code of Civil Procedure in order to avoid such overloads and additional cases. According to ancient Hindu Law, earlier, Res Judicata was termed as Purva Nyaya or former judgement by the Hindu lawyers and Muslims jurist.

The seventh amendment of the U.S. Constitution originates the concept of Res Judicata. It addresses the finality of judgements in a civil jury trial. Once a court has adjudicated the matter, it cannot be change or modify by any other competent court until and unless there is very extreme condition.

Meaning and Scope of Res Judicata

The principles of finality or Res Judicata means 'a thing adjudicated' that is, an issue that is already settled by the judicial decision. The plea of Res Judicata is a restraint on the right of plaintiff to have an adjudication of his claim. The plea must be clearly established; more particularly where the bar sought is on the basis of constructive Res Judicata.

In Alka Gupta v. Narendra Kumar Gupta[3], it was held that, the plaintiff who is sought to be prevented by the bar of constructive Res Judicata should have notice about the plea and have an opportunity to put forth his contentions against the same. It is of universal application as it is based on the three age old principles, namely, "interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium" which means that it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to the litigation.

Second one is "Nemo Debet Bis Vexari Si Constet Curiae Quot Sid Pro Una Et Eadem Causa" meaning there by no one ought to be vexed twice in a litigation if it appears to the court that it is for one and the same cause, and the other principle is "Res Judicata Pro Veritate Occipitur" which means that a judicial decision must be accepted as correct. The main objective of this principle is to prevent abuse in the matter of accessing court for agitating on issues which have become final between the parties. Thus, this principle seeks to promote honest and fair administration of justice throughout the court.

In the case of Lal Chand Vs. Radha Krishna[4], the Apex court was of the view that once the final judgement is pronounced, the judges who are confronted with a suit which identically similar to the earlier judgement, would apply the doctrine of Res Judicata to save the impact of the main judgement. This would ensure that multiplicity of the judgement pertaining to similar matters between the same parties is kept at bay.

Hon'ble Mr. Justice Das Gupta in Satyadhyan Ghosal Vs. Deorjin Debi,[5] the doctrine of Res Judicata has been explained in the simplest possible terms in the following words:

"The principle of Res Judicata is based on the need for giving finality to judicial decisions. What it says is that once a res is judicata, it shall not be adjudged again. Preliminary it will be applicable as between past litigation and future litigation. When a matter - whether on a question of fact or a question of law - has been decided between two parties in one suit or proceeding and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to a higher court or because the appeal was dismissed, or no appeal lies, neither party will be allowed in a future suit or proceedings between the same parties to canvass the matter again".

In Daryao Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[6] the court held some important and remarkable salient feature of Res Judicata. The matter which are directly and substantially in issue is one that had already been alleged or raised by one part at a competent court, and pursuant to the admission or denial of the said matter, has been adjudicated upon by a court in a former suit. The word former suit means that, the suit which is decided prior in point of time, even in the event that such suit was not instituted prior in time.

Thus, if the matter in issue in a given situation, is purely that of fact, then notwithstanding the correctness of the said decision, the parties shall bound in a subsequent litigation by the way of operation of Res Judicata.

Essential of Res Judicata[7]

The doctrine of Res Judicata have some certain conditions for its applicability U/S. 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. So, before granting a decree of Res Judicata following conditions should be satisfied first.
  1. Both the suits must be between the same parties or their representative. If the parties to both the suits are different there would lie no ground for the applicability of doctrine of Res Judicata. Both, the parties as well as their privies will be bound by Res Judicata.
  2. There must be two suits one former (previously decided) suit and the other subsequent suit.
  3. They should be prosecuted under the same title. This refers to the capacity of the party.
  4. Parties of the former suit and subsequent suit or the parties under whom they or any of them claiming should be same.
  5. The matter directly and substantially in issue in both the suits must be related or, the issue directly and substantially in issue in the ensuing suit should likewise be directly and substantially in issue in the previous suit.
  6. The suit must be finally decided between the parties.
  7. For the application of doctrine of Res Judicata, it is essential to ensure that the matter in the former or previous suit was heard and decided. Therefore, where the suit was dismissed because the plaintiff failed to appear or on technical defect, or on the ground for misjoinder of parties, etc., the doctrine of Res Judicata would not be applicable in the subsequent suit.
  8. The former suit should be decided by the court of competent jurisdiction.
  9. Parties in the former as well as in the subsequent suit must have litigated under the same title.

If any of the above listed conditions is not fulfilled then the doctrine of Res Judicata will not be applicable on the suit.

Exceptions to the Plea of Res Judicata

There are limited exceptions to Res Judicata that allow a party to attack the validity of the original judgment, even outside of appeals. These exceptions - usually called collateral attacks. Collateral attacks are typically based on procedural or jurisdictional issues, based not on the wisdom of the earlier court's decision but its authority or competence to issue it.

There are certain exceptions to the doctrine of Res Judicata and these are as follows:
  1. Judgement in original suit obtained by fraud:
    If the decree has been obtained by practicing misrepresentation or fraud on the court, or where the proceedings had been taken all together under a special statute.
  2. A different cause of action:
    Not every finding in the earlier judgement would operates as Res Judicata. Only an issue, which is 'directly' and 'substantially' decided in the earlier suit, would operates as Res Judicata.
  3. When the judgement in not speaking.
  4. When there is Interlocutory Order:
    Interlocutory order is the interim order, decree or sentence passed by the court. A principle of the Res Judicata will be not applied when an interlocutory order is passed on the former suit. It is because in Interlocutory order immediate relief is given to the parties and it can be altered by subsequent application and there is no finality of the decision.
  5. Where the matter has not been decided on merit earlier, the doctrine of Res Judicata is not applicable.
  6. The doctrine of Res Judicata not sets its boundary on criminal cases, where the entire proceedings have been initiated illegally and without jurisdiction.
  7. When the former suit is decided by the court who has no jurisdiction to decide the matter then the doctrine of Res Judicata is not applied to the subsequent suit.
  8. When there is a change in the law and new laws bring new rights to the parties then such rights are not barred by Section 11.
When a matter involves a pure question of law, the doctrine of Res Judicata will not apply.
In cases of Dismissal in limine or dismissal on default, the doctrine of Res Judicata does not apply.

Loopholes in the Doctrine of Res Judicata
  1. This doctrine loses its applicability on appeals.
  2. Sometimes the doctrine is applied to the judgments which is contrary to law.
  3. There are limited exceptions to the doctrine of Res Judicata.
  4. Cases decided on the plea of Res Judicata can be re-litigated.
  5. Rules of Res Judicata restricts the process of delivering justice.

Difference Between Doctrine of Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata

The Section 10 and 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure deals with the doctrine of Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata respectively. The former is applicable to the proceedings pending in the court, while the latter is applicable to matters already adjudicated upon. Res Judicata relates to the matter pending judicial enquiry on trial sub judice.

The doctrine of Res Sub Judice bars two parallel suits between the same parties, i.e., it bars the trial of a suit in which the matter is pending for decision in the previous suit. On the other hand, doctrine of Res Judicata stops the second trial of the same dispute between the same parties. Res Sub Judice bars to the trial of a suit whereas Res Judicata bars to file a suit.

Res Judicata Landmark Cases in India

Daryao Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[8]

The doctrine of Res Judicata is of universal application was established. The Supreme Court of India placed the doctrine of Res Judicata on a still broader foundation. In this case, petitioners filed a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad under Article 226 of the Constitution. But the suit was dismissed. Then they filed independent petitions in the Supreme Court under the writ jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution. The defendants raised an objection regarding the petition by asserting that the prior decision of the High Court would be operated as Res Judicata to a petition under Article 32. The Supreme Court dismissed and disagreed with the petitions.

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.

Devilal Modi Vs. Sales Tax Officer[9]

In this leading case, B challenged the validity of an order of assessment under Article 226. The petition was dismissed on the basis of merits. The Supreme Court also dismissed the appeal that was made against the order on the basis of merits. B again filed another writ petition in the same High Court against the same order of assessment. This time the petition was dismissed by the High Court. The Supreme Court held that the petition was barred by the principle of Res Judicata.

Avtar Singh Vs. Jagjit Singh[10]
A peculiar problem arose in the case of Avtar Singh v. Jagjit Singh. A filed a civil suit, a contention regarding the arbitration of the Court was taken by B. The objection was sustained and the plaint was returned to the plaintiff for the presentation. The Revenue Court did not have any jurisdiction when A approached the Revenue Court so he returned the petition. Once again A filed a suit in the Civil Court. B contended that the suit was barred by the doctrine of Res Judicata.

Amalgamated Coalfields Ltd. & Anr. v. Janapada Sabha Chhindwara & Ors.[11]
The court held that the general principle of doctrine of Res Judicata applies to writ petitions filed under Article 32 and 226. Further, the court ensured that the application of this doctrine to the petitions filed under Article 32, does not in any way impair the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens. It only seeks to regulate the manner in which the said rights could be successfully asserted and vindicated in courts of law.

State of Karnataka v. All India Manufacturers Organisation & Ors.[12]
In this case, it was held that the doctrine of Res Judicata would be applicable to a Public Interest Litigation, provided the earlier case was a genuine and a bona fide litigation as the judgement in the earlier case would be a judgement in rem.

The Doctrine of Res Judicata can been understood as something which restricts wither party to "move the clock back" during the pendency of proceedings. The concept of Res Judicata prevalent in all the jurisdictions of world. This doctrine is one of the most important part of the Indian Legal System. This doctrine is not only applied to the Civil courts but also to the administrative law and other legislation in India. The extent of Res Judicata is wide and it includes a lot of things which even include Public Interest Litigations.

This doctrine can be applied outside the Code of Civil Procedure and covers a lot of areas which are related to the society and people. The scope and the extent have widened with the passage of time and the Supreme Court has elongated the areas with its judgments. The doctrine of Res Judicata is to prevent multiple judgments and protects the rights of the other party by restricting the plaintiff to recover the damages twice from the defendant on the same injury.

The basic point involved in the Nature of the doctrine of Res Judicata is that the doctrine tries to bring in natural and fair justice to the parties and that too by barring the other party to file a multiple number of Suits either for Justice or for harassing the other party.

  1. Section - 11 of The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
  2. Gangai Vinayagar Temple Vs. Meenakshi Ammal, (2009) 9 SCC 757 (769).
  3. Alka Gupta Vs. Narendra Kr Gupta, (2010) 10 SCC 141 (149, 150).
  4. Lal Chand Vs. Radha Krishnan, (1977) 2 SCC 88
  5. Satyadhyan Ghosal Vs. Deorjin Debi, AIR 1960 SC 941
  6. Daryao Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1962) 1 SCR 574
  7. Pooja Ganesh, Judicial Interpretation on Doctrine of Res Judicata, (2020)
  8. Daryao Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh, (1962) 1 SCR 574
  9. Devilal Modi Vs. Sales Tax Officer 1965 SCR (1) 686
  10. Avtar Singh & Ors. Vs. Jagjit Singh & Ors. 1979 AIR 1911
  11. Amalgamated Coalfields Ltd. & Anr. v. Janapada Sabha Chhindwara & Ors., AIR 1964 SC 1013
  12. State of Karnataka v. All India Manufacturers Organisation & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1846

Award Winning Article Is Written By:
  1. Mr.Sanket Kumar - 4th Year Student at The ICFAI University, Dehradun. &
  2. Dr.Vivek Kumar - Asst. Professor at The ICFAI University, Dehradun.
Awarded certificate of Excellence
Authentication No: JA304512220921-14-0123

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