The Doctrine of Res Judicata

The Doctrine of Res Judicata-

This Doctrine has been defined under Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. This Doctrine is also known as the Backbone of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908. A res judicata is a decision given by a judge or tribunal with jurisdiction over the reason for action and therefore the parties, which disposes, with finality, of a matter decided in order that it can’t be re-litigated by those bound by the judgment, except on appeal. Final judgments by default or consent are included within this definition, but no decisions on procedural grounds and decisions which aren’t final in any sense. The purpose of the doctrine is to give finality to litigation and to safeguard parties from being vexed by an equivalent matter twice.

Also, this Doctrine is derived from 3 Roman Maxims-

  • Re judicata pro veritate occipitur, which means the decision of the court is correct and should be accepted as correct.
  • Nemo debet lis vaxari pro eadem causa, which means that no person should be vexed or annoyed, harassed two times 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 of litigation.

Essentials of Res Judicata-

  • The former suit must have been between the same previous parties or persons claiming under them.
  • The question directly and substantially in issue within the subsequent suit should have been heard and at last, decided within the prior suit.
  • Such parties must have litigated under a similar title within the former suit.
  • The Court determined the previous suit must be competent to undertake the later suit.
  • The matter must be directly and substantially in issue of the two suits.

If the above conditions are fulfilled then the decree of Res Judicata will be granted.

Exceptions-

  • When the previous SLP is dismissed – When a special leave petition is dismissed without adjudication or decision then this doctrine shouldn’t be applied. For obtaining this Doctrine, the formal suit should be decided finally by the competent court.
  • A different cause of action – Section 11 won’t be applied when there’s a distinct cause of action within the subsequent suits. The court cannot bar a subsequent suit if it contains a distinct cause of action.
  • Judgment in original suit obtained by fraud – if a court thinks that the judgment of former suit is obtained by fraud, then the doctrine of the res judicata is not applied.
  • Waiver of a decree of Res Judicata – Decree of Res Judicata is a plea in the bar which the party must waive. If a party didn’t raise the plea of res judicata then the matter would be decided against him. It is the duty of an opposite party to make the court aware of the adjudication of the matter in the former suit. If a party fails to do so, the matter is ordered against him.
  • Court not competent to make a decision – When the previous suit is decided by the court who has no jurisdiction to make a decision on the matter then the doctrine of res judicata isn’t applied to the following suit.
  • When there’s Interlocutory Order – Interlocutory order is that the interim order, decree, or sentence given by the court. This doctrine will not apply when an interlocutory order is passed on the previous suit. It is because in Interlocutory order immediate relief is given to the parties and it is often altered by subsequent application and there’s no finality of the order.
  • When there’s a change in Law – When there’s a change within the law and new laws bring new rights to the parties then such rights aren’t barred by Section 11.

In the case of Daryao v State of Uttar Pradesh [1], petitioners have filed a writ petition in Allahabad High Court under Article-226 and they were dismissed. Later the Petitioners again filed the substantive petitions in the Supreme Court of India under Article-32 of the Indian Constitution. The court dismissed the Petitioner’s petitions as they operate as Res-Judicata.

In Bhagat Ram v. State of Rajasthan [2], held that when an individual is acquitted or convicted by the competent court of law he cannot yet again be tried for the same offense as it is barred by the doctrine of Res-Judicata.

In Ajay Mohan v. H.N. Rai [3], held that if there is an interim order decided by the court during the pendency of the suit then it will operate as Res-Judicata at all the subsequent suits. For example, orders of maintainability of suits, questions regarding jurisdiction of courts, etc if decided once by the court then it will not be reopened in the same proceedings. The only remedy for the aggrieved party is to file an appeal against the interim order of court within the higher court of law.

[1] AIR 1961 SC 1475.

[2] AIR 1972 SC 1502.

[3] AIR 2008 SC 804.

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