Saturday, April 5, 2014

Res Judicata : Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure


Res judicata is the Latin term for “a matter already judged”.


The Principle of res judicata is founded on the ancient Indian principle of prangnyaya (previous judgment). The principle is stated in “Brihaspati Samriti” as “if a person who has been defeated in a suit according to law  files the plaint once again he must be told that he has been defeated already; this is called plea of prang-nyaya”.


Under Code of Civil Procedure  (in short CPC), Section 11 incorporates the principle of res judicata which reads as follows: “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”.


To constitute a matter as res judicata under Section 11, CPC the following conditions must be satisfied-

(i) The matter must be directly and substantially in issue in the former suit and in the latter suit,

(ii) The prior suit should be between the same parties or persons claiming under them,

(iii) The parties should have litigated under the same title in the earlier suit,

(iv) The Court which determined the earlier suit must be competent to try the later suit (subject to Explanation 8 of Section 11 CPC),

(v) The question directly and substantially in issue in the subsequent suit should have been heard and finally decided in the earlier suit (Alka Gupta vs Narendra Kumar Gupta, AIR 2011 SC 9).


 (i) A file a suit against B for declaration that he is entitled for certain lands as heirs of C. The suit is dismissed. In a subsequent suit he claims the same property on the ground of adverse possession. The rule of res judicata will not apply, because the issue in the two cases is different. The previous case involved the issue of succession whereas the latter case involved the issue relating to the adverse possession.

(ii) A sues B for possession of certain properties on the basis of a sale deed in his favour. B impugns the deed as fictitious. The plea is upheld and suit is dismissed. A subsequent suit for some other properties on the basis of the same sale deed is barred, as the issue about the fictitious nature of the sale deed was actually in issue in the former suit directly and substantially.

(iii) A files an eviction petition against B, the tenant, on the ground of misuse of the tenanted premises. During the eviction proceedings before the Rent Controller A and B enter into a compromise on the understanding that B shall not misuse the premises and A shall withdraw the suit, on the basis of which the Court granted a compromise decree. Subsequently A files another eviction petition against B on the ground of bona fide requirement. The rule of res judicata will not apply, as the issue is different in the two cases.
Writ petitions

Writ petition under Article 226 dismissed by High Court after hearing on merits, subsequent petition under Article 32 by the same parties and for same reliefs will be barred by principle of res judicata (Direct Recruitment Class II Engineering Officer Association & Others vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1990 SC 1607).

Did you know?

(i) The principle of res judicata is not made applicable to cases of habeas corpus petitions. Therefore, even after the dismissal of one petition of habeas corpus, a second petition is maintainable if fresh, new or additional grounds are available. 

(ii) The general principles of res judicata apply to different stages of the same suit or proceeding.

(iii) If a petitioner withdraws the petition without the leave of the Court to institute a fresh petition on the same subject matter, the fresh petition is not maintainable.

(iv) An adjudication will operate as res judicata between co-defendants if there is a conflict of interest between them and it is necessary to resolve the same by a Court in order to give relief to the plaintiff and similarly an adjudication will operates as res judicata between co-plaintiff if there is a conflict of interest between plaintiffs and it is necessary to resolve the same by a Court in order to give relief to a defendant.

Case Laws

The Supreme Court in Ashok Leyland Ltd vs. State of Tamil Nadu, (2004) 3 SCC 1 has observed that the principle of res judicata is a procedural provision. A jurisdictional question if wrongly decided would not attract the principle of res judicata. When an order is passed without jurisdiction, the same becomes a nullity. When an order is a nullity, it cannot be supported by invoking the procedural principles like, estoppels, waiver or res judicata.

A rule of procedure cannot supersede the law of the land (Mathura Prasad vs. Dossibai, AIR 1971 SC 2355).

In M. Nagabhusana vs. State of Karnataka, AIR 2011 SC 1113, the Apex Court has observed that the doctrine of res judicata is not technical doctrine but a fundamental principle which sustains rule of law in ensuring finality in litigation. The principle of res judicata are of universal application as it is based on two age old principles, namely “interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium” which means that it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end to litigation and the other principle is “nemo debet lis vexari si constat curiae quod sit pro una et eadem causa” meaning thereby that no one ought to be vexed twice in a litigation if it appears to the Court that it is for one and the same cause.

In Prahlad Singh vs. Col. Sukhdev Singh, AIR 1987 SC 1145, the Supreme Court has held that interlocutory decisions given by a Court at earlier stage is binding on the subsequent stage of the suit.

Interlocutory judgments which have the force of a decree must be distinguished from other interlocutory judgments which are a step towards the decisions of the dispute between parties by way of a decree or a final order.

An interlocutory order which had not been appealed from either because no appeal lay or even though an appeal lay an appeal was not taken could be challenged in an appeal from the final decree or order.

Disclaimer: All the contents are for general use and information. Consult your Lawyer before acting.