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Doctrine of Res Judicata: Importance and Relevance

Recently, a bench of the Supreme Court of India has made an observation regarding the Doctrine of Res Judicata. The Court has held that this doctrine would not be a ground for rejecting a plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure (hereinafter referred to as “CPC”). This has stirred an interesting debate in the legal fraternity around the adjudication of plea of Res Judicata, making it a significant topic to study with respect to the CPC.

1. Doctrine of Res Judicata - Meaning

The doctrine of Res Judicata has been embodied in Section 11 of the CPC. This is a Latin term. It means “a thing/matter adjudged”. It indicates that where a matter is already judged, no court will have the power to try any fresh suit or issues which has been already settled in the former suit between the same parties.

Hence, when a competent body adjudicates upon an issue, involving the same parties which were party to the previous suit, cannot file another suit, asking the court to adjudicate upon the issue, which is similar to the issue already adjudicated upon in the previous suit.

Spencer Bower was of the view that the doctrine of res judicata refers to the final judicial decision given by a judicial tribunal that has competent jurisdiction over the cause or matter in litigation and over the parties thereto. Res Judicata is simply the shorter version of the original maxim ‘Res Judicata pro-Veritate Accipitur’. It means that a thing adjudged must be taken as truth.

2. Judgment

In the case of Lal Chand v Radha Krishnan, the Apex Court was of the view that once the final judgment is pronounced, the judges who are confronted with a suit which identically similar to the earlier judgment would apply the doctrine of res judicata to save the impact of the main judgment. This would ensure that multiplicity of the judgment pertaining to similar matters between the same parties is kept at bay.

Daryao v. State of UP, AIR 1961 SC 1457

In this case, the Apex Court placed this doctrine on a higher footing, considering and treating the binding character of the judgments pronounced by competent courts as an essential part of the rule of law.

State of Karnataka v. All India Manufacturers Organisation & Ors., AIR 2006 SC 1846

In this case, it was held that the doctrine of Res Judicata would be applicable to a Public Interest Litigation, provided the earlier case was a genuine and a bona fide litigation as the judgment in the earlier case would be a judgment in rem.

3. Difference Between Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata

The sections dealing with Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata are section 10 and section 11 respectively. The former is applicable to the proceedings pending in the court, while the latter is applicable to matters already adjudicated upon. The doctrine of Res Sub Judice bars two parallel suits between the same parties, i.e., it bars the trial of a suit in which the matter is pending for decision in the previous suit. On the other hand Doctrine of Res Judicata stops the second trial of the same dispute between the same parties.


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