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Published : March 16, 2013 | Author : arnav.upes
Category : Civil Laws | Total Views : 20445 | Rating :

Arnav Raj Chakravorty III year law student at UPES,College of Legal Studies,Dehradun

Brief History and Origin of Res Judicata

"Res judicata pro veritate occipitur" is the full latin maxim which has, over the years, shrunk to mere "Res Judicata" .

The concept of Res Judicata finds its evolvement from the English Common Law system, being derived from the overriding concept of judicial economy, consistency, and finality. From the common law, it got included in the Code of Civil Procedure,1908 and which was later as a whole was adopted by the Indian legal system.

From the Civil Procedure Code, the Administrative Law witnesses its applicability. Then, slowly but steadily the other acts and statutes also started to admit the concept of Res Judicata within its ambit.

Under the Roman Law, a defendant could successfully contest a suit filed by a plaintiff on the plea of “ex captio res judicata”. It was said as “one suit and one decision is enough for any single dispute”.

It essentially meant to-

1. Once a matter is finally decided by a competent court, no party can be permitted to reopen it in subsequent litigation.
2. A final judicial decision pronounced by a judicial tribunal having competent jurisdiction over the cause or matter in litigation, and over the parties thereto.
3. As explained by J. Das Gupta in the case of –

Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi [AIR 1960 SC 941]
When a matter, whether on a question of fact or law, has been decided between two parties in one suit and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to the higher court, or no appeal lies in such case, neither party will be allowed in the future suit between the same parties to canvass the matter again.”

Objective of res judicata
The doctrine of res judicata is based on three maxims:
a) Nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa ( no man should be punished twice for the same cause)

b) Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium (it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to a litigation)

c) Res judicata pro veritate occipitur (a judicial decision must be accepted as correct)

Thus, the doctrine of res judicata is the combined result of the public policy reflected in maxims (b) and (c) and private justice expressed in the maxim (a), and they apply to all judicial proceedings whether civil or criminal.

Lal Chand v. Radha Krishan [ (1977) 2 SCC 88]

The principle is founded on justice, equity and good conscience.

Once a final judgment has been announced in a lawsuit, the subsequent judges who are confronted with a suit that is identical to or substantially the same as the earlier one, they would apply the Res Judicata doctrine ‘to preserve the effect of the first judgment’. This is to prevent injustice to the parties of a case supposedly finished, but perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources and time of the Judicial System.

Therefore, the same case cannot be taken up again either in the same or in the different Court of India. This is just to prevent them from multiplying judgments, so a prevailing plaintiff may not recover damages from the defendant twice for the same injury.

For making Res Judicata binding, several factors must be met up with:
Ø identity in the thing at suit;
Ø identity of the cause at suit;
Ø identity of the parties to the action;
Ø identity in the designation of the parties involved;
Ø whether the judgment was final;
Ø whether the parties were given full and fair opportunity to be heard on the issue.

Regarding designation of the parties involved, a person may be involved in an action while filling a given office and may subsequently initiate the same action in a differing capacity. In that case Res Judicata would not be available as a defense unless the defendant could show that the differing designations were not legitimate and sufficient .

Therefore, Res Judicata in a nut shell is a judicial concept wherein the Courts do not allow a petition to be filed in the same or to the other Court for the doctrine of Res Judicata would apply and the party would not be allowed to file the petition or to continue the petition (as the case may be).

For the application of this section, the following conditions must be satisfied:

1. There must be two suits, one previously instituted and the other subsequently instituted.

2. The matter in issue in the subsequent suit must be directly in the issue in the previous suit.

3. Both the suits must be between the same parties or their representatives.

4. The previously instituted suit must be pending in the same court in which subsequent suit is brought in any other court or in court beyond the limits of India continued by Central Government or SC.

5. The court in which the previous suit is instituted must have jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the subsequent suit.

6. Such parties must be litigating under the same title in both the suits.

Manohar Lal v. Seth Hiralal [ AIR (1962) SC 527]
A court cannot proceed with the subsequently instituted suit since the provisions contained in Sec. 10 of CPC are mandatory, and no discretion is left with the court.

Pukhraj D. Jain v. G. Gopalakrishna [(2004) 7 SCC 251]
If the court is satisfied that subsequent suit can be decided purely on the legal point, it is open to the court to decide such suit.

The provisions of Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure are not at all exhaustive even though it has very wide and enlarged amplitude.

The section “does not affect the jurisdiction of the Court” but “operates as a par to the trial” of the suit or issue, if the matter in the suit was directly and substantially in issue (and finally decided) in the previous suit between the same parties litigating under the same title in a Court, then they are not competent i.e. they become barred to try the subsequent suit in which such issue has been raised .

Thus, this doctrine of Res Judicata is a fundamental concept based on public policy and private interest. It is conceived in the larger public interest, which requires that every litigation must come to an end. It therefore, applies to civil suits, execution proceedings, arbitration proceedings, taxation matters, writ petitions, administrative orders, interim orders, criminal proceedings, etc.

An ordinary litigation being a party or claiming under a party of a former suit cannot avoid the applicability of section 11 of C.P.C. as it is mandatory except on the ground of fraud or collusion as the case may be. The onus of proof lies on the party relying on the theory of Res Judicata. The provisions of section 11 of C.P.C. are “not directory but mandatory”. The judgment in a former suit can be avoided only by taking recourse to section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act on the ground of fraud or collusion.

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.

Res judicata includes two related concepts: claim preclusion, and issue preclusion (also called collateral estoppel), though sometimes Res Judicata is used more narrowly to mean only claim preclusion.

Exceptions to Res Judicata
However, 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 - 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. A collateral attack is more likely to be available (and to succeed) in judicial systems with multiple jurisdictions, such as under federal governments, or when a domestic court is asked to enforce or recognise the judgment of a foreign court.

In addition, in cases involving due process, cases that appear to be Res Judicata may be re-litigated. An instance would be the establishment of a right to counsel. People who have had their liberty taken away (that is, imprisoned) may be allowed to be re-tried with a counselor as a matter of fairness.

In the case of Jallur Venkata Seshayya v. Thadviconda Koteswara Rao , a suit was filed in the Court for the purpose of declaring certain temples public temples and for setting aside alienation of endowed property by the manager thereof. A similar suit was dismissed by the Court two years ago and the plaintiffs here contended that it was the gross negligence on the part of the plaintiffs (of the previous suit) and hence the doctrine of Res Judicata should not be applied. But, the Privy Council said that finding of a gross negligence by the trial court was far from a finding of intentional suppression of the documents, which would amount, to want of bona fide or collusion on the part of the plaintiffs in prior suit. There being no evidence in the suit establishing either want of bona fide of collusion on the part of plaintiffs as res judicata.

In the case of Beliram and Brothers v. Chaudari Mohammed Afzal it was held that where a minors suit was not brought by the guardian of the minors bona fide but was brought in collusion with the defendants and the suit was a fictitious suit, a decree obtained therein is one obtained by fraud and collusion within the meaning of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, s. 44 and does not operate Res Judicata. The principle of Res Judicata in Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 11 is modified by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, s. 44 and the principles will not apply if any of the three grounds mentioned in s. 44 exists. General principles may not be applied in a way making Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 11 nugatory.

In the case of
Rural Litigation And Entitlement Kendra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, it was held that the writ petitions filed in the Supreme Court are not inter-party disputes and have been raised by way of public interest litigation and the controversy before the court is as to whether for social safety and for creating a hazardless environment for the people to live in, mining in the area must be permitted or stopped. Even if it is said that there was a final order, in a dispute of this type it would be difficult to entertain the plea of Res Judicata. The Court was of the view that leaving the question open for examination in future would lead to unnecessary multiplicity of proceedings and would be against the interests of the society. It is mete and proper as also in the interest of the parties that the entire question is taken into account at this stage. Undoubtedly, the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 has come into force with effect from 19 November 1986. Under this enactment, power became vested in the Central Government to take measures to protect and improve the environment. These writ petitions were filed as early as 1983 more than three years before the enactment came into force. The principle of Res Judicata does not apply strictly to public interest litigations. The procedural laws are not fully applicable to public interest litigation cases. Where the prior public interest relates to illegal mining, subsequent public interest litigation to protect environment is not barred.

In Forward Construction Co. v. Prabhat Mandal, the Supreme Court was directly called upon to decide the question. The apex court held that the principle would apply to public interest litigation provided it was a bona fide litigation.

Res Judicata does not restrict the appeals process, which is considered a linear extension of the same lawsuit as the suit travels up (and back down) the appellate court ladder. Appeals are considered the appropriate manner by which to challenge a judgment rather than trying to start a new trial. Once the appeals process is exhausted or waived, Res Judicata will apply even to a judgment that is contrary to law.

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—are typically based on procedural or jurisdictional issues, based not on the wisdom of the earlier court's decision but its authority or on the competence of the earlier court to issue that decision. A collateral attack is more likely to be available (and to succeed) in judicial systems with multiple jurisdictions, such as under federal governments, or when a domestic court is asked to enforce or recognize the judgment of a foreign court.

In addition, in matters involving due process, cases that appear to be Res Judicata may be re-litigated. An example would be the establishment of a right to counsel. People who have had liberty taken away (i.e., imprisoned) may be allowed to be re-tried with a counselor as a matter of fairness.

The Doctrine of Res Judicata can be understood as something which restrains the either party to “move the clock back” during the pendency of the proceedings. The extend of Res Judicata is very-very wide and it includes a lot of things which even includes Public Interest Litigations. This doctrine is applicable even outside the Code of Civil Procedure and covers a lot of areas which are related to the society and people. The scope and the extend has widened with the passage of time and the Supreme Court has elongated the areas with its judgments.

Authors contact info - articles The  author can be reached at: joy.joy14@legalserviceindia.com

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