Doctrine of Res Judicata

Doctrine of Res Judicata
04 May 2020

Doctrine of Res Judicata

Res Judicata means the last and final judicial decision announced by a judicial tribunal having competent jurisdiction over the matter or cause in litigation and over the parties thereto The principle of res judicata is formed on the need of giving a finality to judicial decisions. It is said that once a res is judicata, it shall not be adjudged again. Fundamentally it is applicable between past litigation and future litigation. When a matter, whether on a question of law or a question of fact or, has been decided between two parties in one proceeding or suit and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to a higher Court or no appeal lies or because the appeal was dismissed, neither party will be permitted in a future proceeding or suit between the same parties to canvass the matter again.

The doctrine of Res Judicata has been provided in Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code. Section 11 of the code of Civil Procedure, 1908, embodies the rule of res judicata or the rule of conclusiveness of the judgment, as to the points decided either of law or of facts, in every subsequent suit between the same parties. It enacts that once a cause is finally decided by a competent Court, no party can be allowed to reopen it in subsequent litigation.

Section 13 provides that foreign judgments may operate as res judicata except in the following six cases

  1. Where the decision is not given by the competent court.
  2. Where the judgment is found to be incorrect with the view of international law.
  3. Where the decision has not been given on the merits of the case.
  4. Where the decision has been obtained by fraud
  5. Where the judgment opposed the doctrine of natural justice.
  6. Where the judgment was found to be in breach of law enforced in India.

The doctrine of Res Judicata is derived from three Roman maxims

  1. Nemo debet lis vaxari pro eadem causa – It means that no person should be vexed annoyed, harassed or vexed two times for the same cause;
  2. Res judicata pro veritate occipitur – Decision of the court should be adjudged as true;
  3. Interest republicae ut sit finis litium – It means that it is in the interest of the state that there should be an end of litigation.
Essentials of Res Judicata under Section 11 Civil procedure Code

The following conditions should be satisfied first, Before granting a decree of Res Judicata :

  1. There must be two suits, one former suit, and the other subsequent suit.
  2. Parties of the former and subsequent suit or the parties under whom they or any of them claim should be the same.
  3. The subject matter of the subsequent suit should be identical or related to the Former suit either actually or constructively
  4. The case must be finally decided between the parties
  5. The former suit should be decided by the court of competent jurisdictions
  6. Parties in the former as well as in Subsequent suit must have litigated under the same title.
Exceptions to Res Judicata

Article 32 empowers the Supreme Court to issue writs and some power is provided to High Courts under Article 226. The doctrine of res judicata does not apply to the Writ of Habeas Corpus as far as High Courts are concerned. The Courts need to give proper reasoning while applying the principle of res judicata. There are certain exceptions to res judicata which entitle the party to challenge the validity of the original judgment even outside the appeals. These exceptions are usually recognized as collateral attacks and are based on jurisdictional issues. It is not based on the wisdom of the earlier decision of the court but the authority to issue it. Res judicata may not be applicable when cases appear that they need relitigation.

The provisions of section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code are compulsory and the ordinary litigant who claims under one of the parties to the former suit can only ignore its provisions by taking advantage of section 44 of the Indian Evidence Act which defines with precision the grounds of such evidence as collusion or fraud. It is not for the court to treat gross negligence or negligence as collusion or fraud unless collusion or fraud is the proper inference from facts.

Case Laws 

Daryao v. State of U.P.

In this case, the Court made an observation that the binding character of judgments announced by Courts of competent jurisdiction is itself a fundamental part of the rule of law, and the rule of law surely is the basis of the administration of justice on which the Constitution lays so much prominence. The Court thus held that the rule of res judicata is applicable also to a petition filed under Article 32 of the Constitution and if a petition filed by a petitioner in the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution is dismissed on merits, such decision would operate as res judicata so as to bar a similar petition in the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

In Forward Construction Co. v. Prabhat Mandal

In this case, the Supreme Court was directly called upon to decide the question. The Supreme court held that the principle would be applicable to public interest litigation provided it was a bona fide litigation.

Instalment Supply private limited vs. Union of India

In cases of sales tax or income tax, the doctrine of res judicata does not apply. In this case, the Supreme Court held that assessment of each year is final for that year and it will not govern in the subsequent years. As it determines the tax only for that particular period.


The doctrine of Res Judicata has become one of the major parts of the Indian Legal System. Res Judicata is the concept which is prevailing in all the Jurisdictions of the world. This doctrine is not only applicable to the Civil courts but also to the administrative law and other legislation in India. The principle of Res Judicata is to avert multiple judgments and secure as well as protect the rights of the other party by restricting the plaintiff to recover the damages twice from the defendant on the same injury. The principle of finality on which plea of res judicata lies in the matter of public policy.