Meaning of Res Judicata
The term ‘Res’ means ‘a thing’ and ‘Judicata’ means ‘already decided/adjudged’.
The maxim ‘Res Judicata’ is developed from the Latin maxim “Res judicata pro veritate accipitur” meaning “a judicial decision must be accepted as correct”.
Spencer Bower, described res judicata as ‘a final judicial decision pronounced by a judicial tribunal having competent jurisdiction over the cause or matter in litigation, and over the parties thereto’.
Doctrine of Res Judicata
The doctrine of res judicata or the rule of conclusiveness of a judgment, is based on the need of giving finality to the judicial decisions. It states that when a matter, whether on a question of fact or a question of law, has been decided between two parties in one suit or proceeding and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to a higher court or because the appeal was dismissed, or no appeal lies, neither party will be allowed in a future suit or proceeding between the same party to canvass the matter again.
The doctrine of Res Judicata is discussed under section 11 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908.
Objective of the doctrine of res judicata:
- Nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa (no man should be punished twice for the same cause)
- Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium (it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to litigation)
- Res judicata pro veritate occipitur (a judicial decision must be accepted as correct)
Thus, the doctrine of res judicata is a collaborative result of the public policy and the concept of private justice made applicable to all the judicial proceedings whether civil or criminal.
Section 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 issue has been subsequently raised, and has been heard and finally decided by such Court.
Explanation I – The expression former suit shall denote a suit which has been decided prior to a suit in question whether or not it was instituted prior thereto.
Explanation II – For the purposes of this section, the competence of a Court shall be determined irrespective of any provisions as to a right of appeal from the decision of such Court.
Explanation III -The matter above referred to must in the former suit have been alleged by one party and either denied or admitted, expressly or impliedly, by the other.
Explanation IV – Any matter which might and ought to have been made ground of defence or attack in such former suit shall be deemed to have been a matter directly and substantially in issue in such suit.
Explanation V – Any relief claimed in the plaint, which is not expressly granted by the decree, shall for the purposes of this section, be deemed to have been refused.
Explanation VI – Where persons litigate bona fide in respect of a public right or of a private right claimed in common for themselves and others, all persons interested in such right shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to claim under the persons so litigating.
Explanation VII – The provisions of this section shall apply to a proceeding for the execution of a decree and references in this section to any suit, issue or former suit shall be construed as references, respectively, to a proceeding for the execution of the decree, question arising in such proceeding and a former proceeding for the execution of that decree.
Explanation VIII – An issue heard and finally decided by a Court of limited jurisdiction, competent to decide such issue, shall operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit, notwithstanding that such Court of limited jurisdiction was not competent to try such subsequent suit or the suit in which such issue has been subsequently raised.
Rules of res judicata
- Presence of two suits – There should be two suits instituted in the competent court i.e., a former suit where the matter is already been decided prior to the subsequent suit.
- Competent court – The court in which the previous suit is instituted must have the jurisdiction to litigate the subsequent suit. The competency of the courts is understood with the fact that whether there is a right to appeal provided by the court.
- Subject matter must be same – The issue/subject matter in the subsequent suit must be related directly and substantially with the matter in the previous suit. The previous suit must have been finalized.
- Rule of constructive res judicata – The rule of constructive res judicata states that when a party having an opportunity to raise his plea in the former suit doesn’t do so, then a matter relating directly and substantially with the previous issue cannot be raised further in the subsequent suit. The plea is barred by the rule of constructive res judicata. Similarly, where the defendant did not raise all the objections during the former suit then he will be barred from raising the same in further subsequent suits between the same parties.
State of Uttar Pradesh v. Nawab Hussain
In this case, the petitioner was dismissed from his post by the DIG. He then filed a writ petition for quashing his dismissal on the grounds that he was not given the fair opportunity of being heard before the passing of his order. He further raised the ground that since he was appointed by the IGP of police so he cannot be dismissed by the DIG by virtue of the Article 311(1) of the Constitution. The court ordered that the appeal was barred by res judicata as it was within the knowledge of the plaintiff which he stated himself by saying that he was not given a fair opportunity.
- Representative suit – In the case of a representative suit, the res judicata shall be applicable for all such persons.
A representative suit is a suit filed by or against one or more persons, on behalf of other persons who are similarly interested in that suit, i.e., the interest of the parties is same.
- Applicable during the execution of decrees – Res judicata also applies in the cases of execution of proceedings and decrees.
- Wherever any issue was decided by a court of limited jurisdiction, competent to decide such issue then res judicata shall apply irrespective of the fact that it is not competent to hear the subsequent suit.
Essentials of Res Judicata
- Institution of two suits
For the application of the doctrine of Res Judicata, there should be presence of two suits i.e., the former suit which has already been decided and a subsequent suit which is instituted in the court.
- Same parties
Both the suits should have the same parties or their representatives.
- Litigating under same title
The parties of both suits should be litigating under the same title i.e., the capacity of the parties should remain same.
In the case of Muneesh Kumar Agnihotri and others v. Lalli Prasad Gupta the argument for Res judicata was not accepted as the title of the parties differed from the previous which was in former suit. In the former suit, the claim was made by the father whereas in the subsequent suit the claim was made that the business was started with the aid of the joint family funds hence, the appellants were entitled of the business and the property.
- Subject matter must be same
The issue/subject matter in the subsequent suit must be related directly and substantially with the issue/subject matter in the previous suit.
- Courts must be competent
It is necessary for the application of the doctrine that the court in which the previous suit is instituted should have the competency to decide the matter in subsequent suit. The presence of jurisdiction of the court in both the suits or issue is an essential requirement as the court of limited jurisdiction cannot bind a court to have larger jurisdiction by its decision.
- Former suit must have been decided
There must be a final decision of the case in the former suit. The principle of res judicata bars the trial of an issue or a suit which has been decided in a former suit.
Hence, it can be inferred from the explanation the doctrine of Res Judicata that it was established to minimize the burden of courts by barring the litigation of suits involving same subject matter and parties where once the decision is finalized. The doctrine is based on the principle of providing finality to the justice.
 Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi AIR 1960 SC 941 : (1960) 3 SCR 590
 Civil Procedure Code 1908
 Ins. by Act 104 of 1976, s. 6 (w.e.f. 1-2-1977)
 AIR 1969 All 466
 AIR 1989 All 202
Author: Shivangi Kushwah,
Amity Law School, AUMP IV year/Law Student