The term res-judicata signifies that the matter in dispute has been considered and finally settled and that the adjudication has a conclusive effect upon the rights determined.
Scope and object:
The doctrine of res-judicata is of universal application. Justice requires that every cause should be once fairly tried and public tranquility demands that having been tried once all litigation about that cause should be concluded for ever between those parties. The rule of res-judicata is based on the consideration that it would result hardship to an individual if he were to be vexed twice for the same cause, and that it is in the interest of state that there should be an end to litigation.
Five conditions must be fulfilled in order to attract the rule 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 term matter means necessary facts constituting a claim or defence, and the term issue refers to a material point in dispute between the parties. If a matter is not in issue it will not be-res judicata.
Directly and substantially in issue:
A matter will not be res-judicata merely because it is in issue, as it should be both directly and substantially in issue. Explanation III to section 11 CPC define a matter directly in issue as a matter which must in the former suit have been alleged by one party and either denied or admitted expressly or impliedly by the other.
A matter is substantially in issue if it is of importance and value for the decision of the case. Where a matter has been dealt with as a direct and principal issue it will be directly and substantially in issue. The test is such cases whether the judgment will stand or be intelligible in the absence of a decision on such a matter.
The expression former suit has been defined in Explanation I, which means a suit that has been decided prior to the suit in question whether or not it was instituted prior thereto or not.
2. Between the same parties or parties under whom they or any of them claim:
A matter will be res-judicata only if the parties to the former suit and the subsequent suit are the same. It is not necessary that all the parties in the two suits be the same. For the purpose of res-judicata a person can either be
- Party, or
- Claim under a party, that is a privy, or
- Be represented by a party to a suit (Explanation VI
- Ordinarily a person whose name appears on the record as plaintiff or defendant at the time of decision of the suit is a party for the purpose of S. 11.
- A previous decision is binding on all persons who claim under a party to the decision. A person can claim under a party upon assignment of the interest of such parties inter vivos or by operation of law.
- Explanation VI to S.11 extends the meaning of the term party to include such persons who though not parties themselves are represented by the party to the suit. Such suits are known as representative suits.
3. The parties as aforesaid must have litigated under the same title in the former suit:
The term title refers to the legal capacity or interest of the party or the legal personality of the party. In order that matter be res-judicata not only should the parties be same but such parties should be litigating under the same title as in the former suit.
4.Both courts should be of concurrent jurisdiction:
The court while trying the former suit must have been competent to try the subsequent suit. Where it had no jurisdiction, its determination will not be res-judicata. The term competent as used in S. 11 refers to the competence of the former court to try whole of the subsequent suit. It implied that the court trying the former suit should have been competent to try that suit also. The effect of the fourth condition as such will be that the court trying the former suit and the court trying suit the subsequent suit should be court of concurrent jurisdiction.
5.The matter in issue in the subsequent suit must have been heard and finally decided in the former suit:
The term res-judicata indicates that the matter has already been adjudicated upon in a former suit. A matter will be res-judicata only if it has been heard and finally decided. It is not necessary that it should have been expressly decided, for when a matter is decided by necessary implication it will also be res-judicata. As long as a mater is pending adjudication, a court may vary its earlier orders, but the parties cannot be allowed to re-open such matters but a court having finally decided a mater cannot re-open the same at a later stage of the proceedings.