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Res Judicata: A Judicial Analysis By Janani N

January 16, 2019:

The Author, Janani N. is a student of School of Excellence in Law (SOEL), Dr. Ambedkar Law University, Chennai. She is currently interning with LatestLaws.com.

Res judicata means “to preserve the effect of first judgment” in gist.  Section 11 Civil Procedure Code enables the party to raise the statutory plea of res judicata if the conditions given therein are fulfilled.

The principle embodied in the statute is not so much the principle of “estoppel by record”, which the British Courts apply, as one of public policy, based on two maxims derived from Roman jurisprudence: firstly, interest reipublicoe ut sit finis litium–it concerns the State that there be an end to law suits; and, secondly, “nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem cause”–no man should be vexed twice over for the same cause.[2]

The expression “former suit” according to explanation I of section 11, Civil Procedure Code, makes it clear that, if a decision is given before the institution of the pro- ceeding which is sought to be barred by res judicata, and that decision is allowed to become final by operation of law, a bar of res judicata would emerge.


Section 11 C.P.C. (excluding the Explanations) provides as under :


“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.”


This doctrine is similar to the concept of double jeopardy, but in civil law version. This bars a party of a civil suit from suing against the same claim which was already decided by the Court. the orgin of Res Judicata couldn’t be traced clearly. But, this concept prevails for all the jurisdiction and throughout the world. India has adopted the principle of res judicata in Section 11 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (hereinafter referred to as “C.P.C.”). Latin phrase “Res judicata pro veritate accipitur,” “a matter adjudged is taken for truth”. As this is for both civil and common law, the case does not hold appeal. In short it is a bar for re-litigation of such cases between the parties. Res judicata is known to Hindu law as ‘Purva Nyaya’ which could be also said as former judgment. The case wouldn’t be heard expect by way of appeal.

·       Nemo debet lis vexari pro una et eadem casua meaning that no man should be vexed twice for the same cause,

·       Interest republicae ut sit finis litium or that it is in the interest of the State that there should be an end to litigation, and

·       Res judicata pro veritate occipitur meaning that a judicial decision must be accepted as correct.

These three maxims plays a vital role in  the concept of Res Judicata.



Kalinga Mining Corporation v. Union of India[4]. The appellants also relied upon some case laws according to which the illegitimate children were entitled under Section 16 of Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 to inherit only the self acquired property of their father whereas the lands in dispute are claimed to be with the family from the time of Kishun father of Bechai and Kanhai.

The Writ Court accepted the submission advanced on behalf of appellants that as per settled law, the principles of res judicata, constructive res judicata and estoppel are applicable to the proceedings under the Act. The Writ Court, however made a distinction between binding nature of even an erroneous judgment between the same parties in respect of same property and the binding nature of such judgment in another proceeding as res judicata when the subsequent proceeding or suit is for a different property.


  1. Competent jurisdiction shall be present
  2. Judgments should be on merits
  3. Cause of action should be present
  4. The parties in the second action must have been involved in the initial litigation.

The concept of Res Judicata and Res Sub Judice are different- where section 11 of CPC deals with Res Judicata and section 10 of CPC deals with Res sub Judice.

Mohanlal Goenka v. Benoy Kishna Mukherjee  and particularly on the following passage in paragraph 23: “23. There is ample authority for the proposition that even an erroneous decision on a question of law operates as ‘res judicata’ between the parties to it. The correctness or otherwise of a judicial decision has no bearing upon the question whether or not it operates as ‘res judicata.”[5]

In L. Janakirama Iyer & Ors. v. P.M.Nilakanta Iyer & Ors., he conceded that the general principles of res judicata cannot have an application in cases where the earlier judgment in a suit is relied upon in a subsequent suit and that in such a situation the matter has to be examined on the basis of provisions contained in Section 11 C.P.C. only. We will, therefore, confine ourselves to the provisions of Section 11 C.P.C.

In the case of Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Smt. Deorajin Debi, where the principle of Res Judicata is invoked in the case of the different stages of proceedings in the same suit the nature of the proceedings, the scope of the enquiry which the adjectival law provides for the decision being reached as well as the specific provision made on matters touching such decisions are some of the factors to be considered before the principle is held to be applicable. Order IX Rule 7 does not put an- end to the litigation nor does it involve the determination of any issues in controversy in the suit. A decision or direction in an interlocutory proceeding of the type provided for by Order IX Rule 7 is not of the kind which can operate as Res Judicata so as to bar the hearing on the, merits of an application under Order IX Rule 13.[6]

Forward Construction Co. v. Prabhat Mandal, the Supreme Court was directly called upon to decide the question. The apex court held that the principle would apply to public interest litigation provided it was a bona fide litigation.- this case is an exception to this doctrine.

The contention was advanced on behalf of the appellants that the probate proceedings, in which the previous judgment was pronounced, were not a suit within the meaning of Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, but Section 83 of the Probate and Administration Act provides for the form which contentious probate proceedings shall take. They must take the form as nearly as may be of a suit according to the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, in which the petitioner for probate or letters of administration shall be the plaintiff, and the person who may have appeared to oppose the grant shall be the defendant. [7]

In the award, the arbitrator has stated that the judgmentof the High Court in the second appeal would not operate as res judicata as regards the title to the properties but was only a piece of evidence. The arbitrator came to the conclusion that the respondents were in joint possession of the properties and, therefore, there was no ouster. If the judgment operated as res judicata, the respondents had no title to the properties.

There was no finding by the arbitrator that by adverse possession they had acquired title to the properties at any point of time. The question which was referred to the arbitrator was the dispute between the, parties as regards the title to the properties. If the judgment of the High-Court operated in law as resjudicata, it would be an error of law apparent on the face of the award if it were to say that the judgment would not operate as res judicata.

The District Judge was, therefore, right in holding that the award was vitiated by an error of law apparent on its face in that it was based on the proposition that the judgment of the High Court would not operate as res judicata on the Question of title to the properties. [8]Thus, the concept of Res judicata plays a huge role in Indian judiciary.


[2] [1950] S.C.R. 754.

[3]Narayana prabhu venkateshwara v. narayana prabhu.

[4] 2013) 5 SCC 252.

[5] AIR 1953 SC 65.

[6] Legalserviceindia.com

[7] (1914) 16 BOMLR 5.

[8] Ram Bhaj v. Ahmad Saidakhtar Khan; charan singh and others v. babulal.

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