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Res Judicata: Meaning and Application
If a party files a suit in a court of law; subsequently, the court investigates and trials the case and gives a final decision on its merits. In such a condition, the respective party has no right to file the same case in some other court or again in the same court (with the same issue). This is what the principle of res judicata explains.
What is the Meaning of Res Judicata?
Res Judicata is a Latin term, which means “a thing decided.” So, the doctrine of res judicata explains a rule of finality of judgment given against a dispute, cannot be re-filed in the same court or any other competent court for the same issue and between the same parties.
Provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure (1908)
The principle of res judicata is embodied in Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure. This principle is attracted to bar a subsequent civil suit that has been instituted by the same parties who were also parties to the earlier suit decided by the competent court, where the dispute in both suits is directly and substantially the same and the cause of action is also the same. In that case, the subsequent suit is barred. If such a suit is filed, it will be dismissed as barred by res judicata.
Therefore, the principle of res judicata bars the institution of a suit on the same dispute with the same cause of action by the same parties again when the same dispute between the same parties has already been decided and settled by the competent court. So the parties shall not be permitted to raise the same dispute again and again. And there is the finality of judgment.
The provision of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, is reproduced as under "S. 11, Res Judicata.
No court shall try any suit or issue in which the matter directly and substantially in issue has been directly and substantially in issue in a former suit between the same parties or 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 the suit in which such an issue has been subsequently raised and has been heard and finally decided by such a court.
Res judicata means "an adjudicated matter or dispute," i.e., an issue that is finally decided by a judgment of a competent court.
The principle of res judicata shall be applicable to bar the trial of the suit only when the following conditions are to be proved in that particular case, namely;
The parties to the suit must be the same in both suits.
The dispute in the suit must be about the same thing.
The dispute must be finally decided between the parties and
The previous suit must have been decided by a court of competent jurisdiction.
In Lal Chand v. Radha Krishna (AIR 1977 SC 789), the Supreme Court explained the principle of res judicata as follows −
Section 11, as it has long since been settled, is not exhaustive, and the principle that motivates that section can be extended to cases that do not strictly fall within the letter of the law. The principle of res judicata is conceived in the larger public interest, which requires that all litigation must, sooner rather than later, come to an end. The principle is also found in equity, justice, and good conscience, which require that a party that has once succeeded on an issue should not be permitted to be harassed by a multiplicity of proceedings involving the determination of the same issue.
In Daryao Singh v State of UP, AIR 1961 SC 1457, the Supreme Court held that it is a settled position of law that a litigant does not have a right to approach the court time and again for the same cause of action by only changing grounds each time. All possible grounds ought to have been raised or challenged at the first instance. The litigant not doing so would not be permitted to re-agitate the same cause of action repeatedly by only changing grounds each time. The issue, which has been challenged once and stands decided, should not be allowed to reopen and re-agitate only on the ground that the petitioner at the first instance could not take or raise certain grounds, which he has now done in the subsequent writ petition. If such a system and principle are permitted, there will be no end to litigation, and previous judicial pronouncements will have no binding effect. It is for this reason that the Res Judicata principle was adopted and is being applied.
Exceptions of Res Judicata
Following are some of the conditions in which the principle of res judicata would not apply −
If the law changed − Because of an amendment, a new law is passed, then, under the new provision, an aggrieved party may file a fresh law suit.
If the judgment is obtained by fraud − If it is proved that the judgment was obtained through fraud or false presentation of evidence, then the principle of res judicata will be waived.
If the case is decided by an incompetent court − If the case is decided by such court, which has no jurisdiction over the matter, then the principle of res judicata would not apply.
The principle of res judicata is a matter of public policy. It provides for the finality of a judgment. The principle of res judicata would apply only in cases where the same disputes on the same cause of action were raised by the same parties in a subsequent suit instituted in a court of competent jurisdiction, despite the fact that the same dispute between the same parties had already been decided by the court of competent jurisdiction. By the application of the principle of res judicata, the trial of the subsequent suit is barred, and the suit shall be dismissed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. The doctrine of res judicata has been incorporated into which of the provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure?
Ans: The doctrine of res judicata has been incorporated under Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure of 1908.
Q2. What is the effect of the principle of res judicata on the suit?
Ans: The principle of res judicata is not applicable to all suits; however, in the case of a particular suit, if the essential conditions for the application of the principle of res judicata are fulfilled, the trial of the suit shall be barred by the application of the principle of res judicata, and the court shall dismiss the suit.
Q3. Whether the principle of res judicata is applicable where the previous suit was decided by a court having no jurisdiction?
Ans: If the dispute was decided by a court that lacked jurisdiction to hear it, the judgment has no legal standing. In such a case the principle of res judicata would not be applicable, and the subsequent suit is permitted to be tried by the court having jurisdiction.
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