The Dimensions Of Doctrine Of Res Judicata

Ankur Mittal, Additional Advocate General Haryana
Punjab & Haryana High Court, Chandigarh
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Date : 17/03/2021 - Location : House No. 894, Top Floor, Sector 38-A, Chandigarh
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The Dimensions Of Doctrine Of Res Judicata

The concept of Res Judicata finds its evolvement from the English Common Law system, being derived from the overriding concept of judicial economy, consistency, and finality. From the common law, it got included in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 in the form of section 11 and which was later as a whole was adopted by the Indian legal system. The latin phrase "Res Judicata" literally means "a matter adjudged" or a "dispute decided." This theory contemplates that if either of the parties in a case approaches the same court for the judgment on the same issue then the suit will be barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The principle is also founded on justice, equity and good conscience which require that a party who has once succeeded on an issue should not be harassed by multiplicity of proceedings involving the same issue.

The provisions of section 11 of C.P.C., 1908 are mandatory and not directory and the onus of proof lies on the party relying on the theory of Res Judicata.


• The matter directly and substantially in issue in the subsequent suit or issue must be the same matter which was directly and substantially in issue either actually or constructively in the former suit.

• The former suit must have been a suit between the same parties or between parties under whom they or any of them claim.

• Such parties must have been litigating under the same title in the former suit. The court which decided the former suit must be a court competent to try the subsequent suit or the suit in which such issue is subsequently raised.

• The matter directly and substantially in issue in the subsequent suit must have been heard and finally decided by the court in the former suit.


The rule of constructive res judicata in section 11 the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 is an artificial form of res judicata. It provides that if a plea has been taken by a party in a proceeding between him and the defendant then the former shall not be permitted to take pleas against the same party in the following proceeding with reference to the same matter. It is opposed to public policies on which the principle of res judicata is based. It would mean harassment and hardship to the defendant. The rule of constructive res judicata helps in raising the bar. Hence this rule is known as the rule of constructive res judicata which in reality is an aspect of augmentation of the general principles of res judicata.

In the case of State of Uttar Pradesh v. Nawab Hussain, AIR 1977 SC 1680, M was a sub-inspector and was dismissed from the service of D.I.G. He challenged the order of dismissal by filing a writ petition in the High Court. He said that he did not get a reasonable opportunity of being heard before the passing of the order. However, the argument was negatived and the petition was dismissed. He again filed a petition on the ground that he was appointed by the I.G.P. and had no power to dismiss him. The defendant argued that the suit was barred by constructive res judicata. However, the trial court, the first appellate court as well as the High Court held that the suit was not barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The Supreme Court held that the suit was barred by constructive res judicata as the plea was within the knowledge of the plaintiff, M and he could have taken this argument in his earlier suit.


In the historic case of Daryao v. State of Uttar Pradesh, 1962 SCR (1) 574, the doctrine of res judicata is of universal application was established. The Supreme Court of India placed the doctrine of res judicata on a broader foundation. In this case, petitioners filed a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad under Article 226 of the Constitution of India and the same was dismissed. Then they filed independent petitions in the Supreme Court under the writ jurisdiction of Article 32 of the Constitution. The respondents raised an objection regarding the petition by asserting that the prior decision of the High Court would operate as res judicata to a petition under Article 32 and the Supreme Court dismissed and disagreed with the petitions.

The court held that the rule of res judicata applies to a petition under Article 32 of the Constitution as well. If a petition is filed by the petitioner in the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution and it is dismissed on merits, it would be operated as res judicata to bar a similar petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.


There are limited exceptions to Res Judicata that allow a party to attack the validity of the original judgment, even outside of appeals. These exceptions - usually called collateral attacks - are typically based on procedural or jurisdictional issues, based not on the wisdom of the earlier court's decision but its authority or competence to issue it.

• It should be noted that the principle of res judicata and constructive res judicata are held not applicable in Habeas Corpus Petition as held by Supreme Court in Ghulam Sarwar v. Union of India, AIR 1967 SC 1335 and in Lallubhai v. Union of India, AIR 1981 SC 728.

• The judgment in a former suit can be avoided only by taking recourse to Section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act on the ground of fraud or collusion. In the case of Beliram and Brothers v. Chaudari Mohammed Afzal, it was held that where a minors suit was not brought by the guardian of the minors bona fide but was brought in collusion with the defendants and the suit was a fictitious suit, a decree obtained therein is one obtained by fraud and collusion within the meaning of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, s. 44 and does not operate Res Judicata. The principle of Res Judicata in Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, s. 11 is modified by the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, s. 44 and the principles will not apply if any of the three grounds mentioned in s. 44 exists.

• Res Judicata does not restrict the appeals process, which is considered a linear extension of the same lawsuit. Appeals are considered the appropriate manner for challenging a judgment rather than trying to start a new trial. And once the appeals process is exhausted or waived, Res Judicata will apply even to a judgment that is contrary to law.


The principle of Res Judicata does not apply strictly to public interest litigations. The procedural laws are not fully applicable to public interest litigation cases. Where the prior public interest litigation relates to illegal mining, subsequent public interest litigation to protect environment is not barred.

In Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of U.P., 1985 SCR (3) 169, It was held on this aspect:

The writ petitions before us are not inter-party disputes and have been raised by way of public interest litigation and the controversy before the court is as to whether for social safety and for creating a hazardless environment for the people to live in, mining in the area should be permitted or stopped. We may not be taken to have said that for public interest litigations, procedural laws do not apply. At the same time it has to be remembered that every technicality in the procedural law is not available as a defense when a matter of grave public importance is for consideration before the court.


• A decision or direction in an interlocutory proceeding of the type as provided under Order IX Rule 7 does not operate as Res Judicata so as to bar the hearing on merits of an application under Order IX Rule 13.

• Taxation matters

• Res Judicata is not applicable to cases of habeas corpus petitions.

• Dismissal of suit in default

• Dismissal in limine

• Dismissal of Special Leave Petition in limine by a non speaking order

• Compromise decree, though party is precluded from challenging it by rule of estoppels.

• Fraudulent decree

• In case of change in circumstances

• Change in law subsequent to a decision rendered by the Court.

• Cases decided on the plea of res judicata can be re-litigated.

• Public Interest Litigation.

• In the case of K.V. George v. Secretary to Govt., 1989 SCR Supl. (1) 398, the court held 6 that plea of Res Judicata cannot be raised in the cases of Arbitration and Rewards.

• The doctrine of Res Judicata is not applied in the income tax proceedings. --In the case of B.S.N.L. v. Union of India, the court held that the decision given for one Assessment year does not operate as res judicata in the Subsequent year.


Constructive Res-Judicata and Order II Rule 2 of the Code of Civil Procedure In Alka Gupta v. Narender Kumar Gupta, (2010) 10 SCC 141, Supreme Court observed that Plea of res judicata is a restraint on the right of a plaintiff to have an adjudication of his claim. The plea must be clearly established; more particularly where the bar sought is on the basis of constructive res judicata. The object of Order 2 Rule 2 of the Code is two-fold. First is to ensure that no defendant is sued and vexed twice in regard to the same cause of action. Second is to prevent a plaintiff from splitting of claims and remedies based on the same cause of action. The effect of Order II Rule 2 of the Code is to bar a plaintiff who had earlier claimed certain remedies in regard to a cause of action, from filing a second suit in regard to other reliefs based on the same cause of action. It does not however bar a second suit based on a different and distinct cause of action.

Constructive res judicata deals with grounds of attack and defence which ought to have been raised, but not raised, whereas Order II Rule 2 of the Code relates to reliefs which ought to have been claimed on the same cause of action but not claimed. In Direct Recruit Class II Engineering Officers' Association v. State of Maharashtra, 1990 (2) SCC 715, a Constitution Bench of this Court reiterated the principle of constructive res judicata after referring to Forward Construction Co. v. Prabhat Mandal, 1986 (1) SCC 100 thus: "an adjudication is conclusive and final not only as to the actual matter determined but as to every other matter which the parties might and ought to have litigated and have had decided as incidental to or essentially connected with subject matter of the litigation and every matter coming into the legitimate purview of the original action both in respect of the matters of claim and defence."


The doctrine of res judicata and res subjudice varies in some factors -

• Res sub judice applies to a matter that is pending trial whereas res judicata applies to a matter adjudicated or arbitrated.

• Res sub judice prohibits the trial of a suit that is pending decision in a previous suit whereas res judicata prohibits the trial of a suit that has been decided in a former suit.


Res Judicata is a concept which is prevalent in all the Jurisdictions of the world. The principle of res judicata seeks to promote honesty and fair administration of justice and to prevent abuse of process of law. The Doctrine of Res Judicata can be understood as something which restrains the either party to move the clock back after the final conclusion of proceedings.

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