RES JUDICATA: THE RULE OF CONCLUSIVENESS

BY S. SRIRAM

LEGAL INTERN, H.K. LAW OFFICES

WHAT IS RES JUDICATA?

The Principle of res judicata is enshrined under Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. This principle or rule is also called as the “rule of conclusiveness”. It provides that a matter once finally decided by a competent Court, no party can reopen it in a subsequent litigation.

It was held in SATYADHYAN GHOSAL VS. DEORJIN DEBI, AIR 1960 SC 941 that in the absence of res judicata rule, there will be no end to litigation and the parties will be put to constant trouble, harassment and expenses.

WHAT DOES SECTION 11 SAY?

No Court shall try any suit or issue in which, the matter directly and substantially in issue;

A. Has been directly and substantially in issue in a former suit between the same parties, or

B. Between parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title, in a Court competent to try such subsequent suit or 

C. The suit in which such issue has been subsequently raised, and has been heard and finally decided by such Court. 

WHAT IS ITS’ OBJECT?

A. NEMO DEBET BIS VEXARI PRO UNA ET EADEM CAUSA – No man should be vexed 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.

In M.NAGABHUSHANA VS. STATE OF KARNATAKA, (2011) 2 SCC 408 the Supreme Court held that the doctrine of res judicata is of universal application and has been accepted by all civilized systems of jurisprudence. It seeks to promote honesty and fair administration of justice and to prevent abuse of process of law.

EXTENT AND APPLICABILITY

The Doctrine of res judicata, being the fundamental concept based on public policy and private interest, applies to civil suits, execution proceedings, arbitration proceedings, taxation matters, industrial adjudication, writ petitions, administrative orders, interim orders, criminal proceedings, etc.

RES JUDICATA AND RULE OF LAW

The Doctrine of res judicata is of universal application. In the Landmark case DARYAO VS. STATE OF U.P., AIR 1961 SC 1457 a writ petition was filed under Article 226 before the Allahabad High Court. The same was dismissed by the High Court. Thereafter the petitioners filed another writ petition under Article 32 before the Supreme Court on the same subject matter. The prior decision of the High Court acted as res judicata and the petition was dismissed. 

Hon’ble Justice Gajendragadkar observed “The binding character of judgments pronounced by Courts of competent jurisdiction is itself an essential part of Rule of Law”.

RES JUDICATA AND RES SUB JUDICE

The former applies to matters adjudicated. The latter applies to a matter pending trial.

RES JUDICATA AND ISSUE ESTOPPEL

Section 300(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 envisages the notion that, a Person once convicted or acquitted should not to be tried for the same offence. 

Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 enacts that once a matter is finally decided by competent Court, no party to such proceeding can be allowed to reopen it in subsequent litigation.

In BHANU KUMAR JAIN VS. ARCHANA KUMAR, (2005) 1 SCC 787 it was observed that the rule under Section 11 is applicable to criminal proceedings as well. It is not permissible in the subsequent stage of the same proceedings or in subsequent proceeding to try a person for an offence in respect of which he has been acquitted or convicted.

RES JUDICATA AND LIS PENDENS

The doctrine of Lis Pendens is only one aspect of the rule of res judicata. Section 52 of the Transfer of Property Act, 1882 deals with the doctrine of lis pendens. Where a conflict arises between doctrine(s) of Res judicata and Lis pendens, the former will prevail.

RES JUDICATA AND ESTOPPEL

Res Judicata results from a decision of the Court whereas estoppel flows from the act of parties. Res judicata prevents a man averring the same thing twice in successive litigations, while estoppel prevents him from saying one thing at one time and the opposite at another.

IS SECTION 11 MANDATORY?

Section 11 being mandatory is a plea of law which touches the jurisdiction of a Court to try the proceedings. A finding on that plea would oust the jurisdiction of the Court. If the requirements of Section 11 are fulfilled, res judicata will apply and even a concession given by an advocate will not bind a party. – TALLURI VENKATA SESHAYYA VS. THADIKONDA KOTISWARA RAO, (1936-37) 64 IA 17: AIR 1937 PC 1

IS SECTION 11 EXAHUSTIVE?

NARAYANAN CHETTIAR VS. ANNAMALAI CHETTIAR, AIR 1959 SC 275 – The Doctrine of res judicata codified under Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 is not exhaustive.

In the case of LAL CHAND VS. RADHA KRISHAN, (1977) 2 SCC 88 Justice Chandrachud observed “The fact is that section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 cannot apply on its’ terms. The Principle not being exhaustive extends to cases which do not strictly fall within the letter of law”.

CONCLUSION

To conclude, we can find the situation where, it is clear that the res judicata must be raised at the proper stage of the proceedings. The onus to prove res judicata is on the party who contends that an earlier decision operates as a res judicata between the parties. At the end of the day the purpose is to secure the ends of justice through all the possible means.

__________

  1. Section 11, Code of Civil Procedure Code,1908
  2. Section 52, Transfer of Property Act, 1882
  3. Section 300(1), Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  4. SATYADHYAN GHOSAL VS. DEORJIN DEBI, AIR 1960 SC 941
  5. M.NAGABHUSHANA VS. STATE OF KARNATAKA, (2011) 2 SCC 408
  6. BHANU KUMAR JAIN VS. ARCHANA KUMAR, (2005) 1 SCC 787
  7. DARYAO VS. STATE OF U.P., AIR 1961 SC 1457
  8. TALLURI VENKATA SESHAYYA VS. THADIKONDA KOTISWARA RAO, (1936-37) 64 IA 17: AIR 1937 PC 1 
  9. NARAYANAN CHETTIAR VS. ANNAMALAI CHETTIAR, AIR 1959 SC 275

10. LAL CHAND VS. RADHA KRISHAN, (1977) 2 SCC 88

Published by meghachaturvedi

Associate Partner, H.K. Law Offices

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