Explain the concept of Res- Judicata.
The general meaning of a term “Res- Judicata” is ‘a thing that has been adjudged’. This doctrine has been accepted in all civilized legal systems and in every legal system, it is believed that ‘one suit and one decision is enough for any single dispute’. In ancient India, it was considered as ‘Purva nyaya’ i.e. former judgment. According to this doctrine, if any matter has been decided by a competent court then again that matter will not be entertained by any other court. This doctrine takes away the subject matter jurisdiction of a court and prevent the court from passing contradictory judgments on a same matter in issue.
In the leading case of Daryao v. State of U.P., AIR 1961 SC 1457, the hon’ble court held that once a matter is finally decided by a competent court, no party can be permitted to reopen it in a subsequent litigation. In the absence of a rule of res judicata, there will be no end to litigation and the parties would be put to constant trouble, harassment and expenses.
Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, deals with the provisions of Res- Judicata. According to Section 11, if any matter in issue which was directly or substantially raised into a suit between two parties under a particular title before a court who is competent to grant the relief and that court has passed the judgment then same matter directly or substantially in issue between the same parties under same title will not be tried by any other competent court.
Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, deals with direct res- judicata as well as constructive res- judicata. In case of direct res- judicata, if any matter in issue that has been decided by a competent court again directly or substantially raised by same parties under same title in another suit then in such a case, the court in which latter suit has been filed will not try that matter in issue whereas in case of constructive res- judicata, if any party to a suit has any ground of defence or attack by which he could prove his case, he had ought to assert this ground in former suit to prove his case but if a party fails to assert the ground of defence or attack in former suit then the court will not allow him to assert this ground in second suit regarding the same matter in issue which has been finally decided by the court in the first suit.
In the leading case of Devilal Modi vs. STO ( AIR 1965 SC 1150), The Hon’ble Supreme Court held that, “The rule of Constructive Res- Judicata engrafted in Explanation 4 to Section 11 is an artificial form of Res- Judicata and provides that if a plea could have been taken by a party in a proceeding between him and his opponent, he should not be permitted to take that plea against the same party in a subsequent proceeding with reference to the same subject matter.”
Moreover, in the leading case of State of U.P. v. Nawab Hussain, AIR 1977 SC 1680, the hon’ble court held that the primary object of a constructive res judicata is to cut short the litigation by compelling the parties to the suit to rely upon all grounds of attack or defence which are available to them. If the plaintiff or defendant fails to take up such ground which he “might” and “ought” to have taken, it would be treated to have been raised and decided.
The doctrine of Res- judicata is based on three maxims:
- No man should be vexed twice for the same cause
- It is in the interest of the State that there should be an end to a litigation
- A judicial decision must be accepted as correct
The doctrine of res- judicata is based upon principle of equity, justice and good conscience and founded on a public policy. This doctrine is conceived in the larger public interest and the main aim of this doctrine is to protect parties from unnecessary harassment and hardship and prevent the courts of concurrent jurisdiction from passing contradictory judgements.
In the leading case of Lal Chand v. Radha Krishan, AIR 1977 SC 789, the hon’ble court held that the doctrine of res judicata is conceived in the larger public interest which requires that all litigation must, sooner than latter, come to an end. The principle is also founded on justice, equity and good conscience which require that a party who has once succeeded on an issue should not be harassed by multiplicity of proceedings involving the same issue.
Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is a mandatory provision and the plea of res judicata 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 a court. If the requirements of section 11 are fulfilled then the doctrine of res judicata will be applicable. Even if the plea of res- judicata is a plea of law but it should be interpreted and applied liberally. Since the rule is founded on high public policy and upon the need of giving finality to judicial decisions, a strict and technical construction should not be adopted. In deciding whether the doctrine would apply, its substance and not the form should be considered.
According to section 11, it is general rule that doctrine of res judicata is applicable upon a suit between plaintiff and defendant, but sometimes it may operate between co- defendants and co- plaintiffs also. An adjudication will operate as res- judicata between co- defendants if the following conditions are satisfied:-
• There must be a conflict of interest between co defendants
• It must be necessary to decide that conflict in order to give relief to the plaintiff
• The question between co- defendants must have been finally decided; and
• The co- defendants were necessary or proper parties in the former suit.
In the leading case of Sheodan Singh v. Daryao Kunwar, AIR 1966 SC 1332, the hon’ble court held that if these conditions are satisfied, the adjudication will operate as res- judicata between co- defendants.