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Res Judicata and Res SubJudice - explained

Res Judicata is Latin word which means a matter which is already judged. So it says, when matter is decided and the judgement is final which have no provision for appeal, or, if there was appeal, it was extinguished, the doctrine bars or precludes continued litigation of such parties. The doctrine of Res Judicata bars only proceedings between same parties and not others.

On the other hand, when we try to understand the meaning of the word Sub Judice, it says that under judgement. So the matter is not finally decided and under consideration by court or judge. So in that situation there will be a case pending between the same parties on the same subject matter, the court will have the power to stay the proceeding. So the doctrine of Sub Judice, literally says, stay of suit.

Both these doctrines are mean to ensure that the time of the court is used effectively and not misused or wasted. This is done by ensuring that the multiple suits are not filed between same parties on the same subjects, which will waste precious time of the court.

Now let us try to understand more on these doctrines:

Res Judicata

The doctrine of Res Judicata derived from the maxim “Res Judicata Pro Veritate Accipitur” and meant to ensure judicial economy, consistency and also finality of litigations.

This doctrine bars the raising a matter in the same court or other court, which is already decided. The doctrine is also called claim preclusion, as it prohibits any further claim once the case is decided finally.

Benefits of Res Judicata 

  1. Injustice and inconvenience to parties, if the same case on which final judgement is declared and decided the claims allowed to be entertained by courts.

  2. If the same case is allowed for further claims, there will be varied judgements which will in turn reduce the confidence of people in the system and create confusion.

  3. This will also result in waste of court resources.

  4. Multiple decisions can also mean multiple damages for the same injury.

Res judicata provides for

Claim Preclusion: once the claim is already given on judgements by same parties, it cannot be raised again in other suit.

Issue Preclusion: Once the issue is decided between the same parties, no re litigation will be allowed.

We need to understand that the doctrine applies only when the case is finally decided and all appeal provisions are exhausted or barred by limitation. If appeals are available, this doctrine will not apply, because appeal is a legal right.

 Legal Maxims

  1. Nemo debet lis vexari pro eadem causa– no man to be vexed twice for the same cause.

  2. Interest republicae ut sit finis litium– it is in the interest of the state that there should be end to litigation.

  3. Re judicata pro veritate occipitur– a judicial decision should be accepted as correct.

Section 11 of the code of Civil Procedure, 1908 explains doctrine of Res Judicata. It says that once the suit is finally decided by a competent court, the concerned parties cannot be permitted to re open the case in other litigation.

Res Judicata under Indian law

Section 11 states that;

“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.”

In the case of Satyadhyan Ghosal v. Deorjin Debi, Hon’ble Justice Das Gupta explained the doctrine of Res Judicata as;

“The principle of res judicata is based on the need of giving a finality to judicial decisions. What it says is that once a res is judicata, it shall not be adjudged again. Primarily it applies as between past litigation and future litigation. When a matter, whether on a question of fact or a question of law, has been decided between two parties in one suit or proceeding and the decision is final, either because no appeal was taken to a higher Court or because the appeal was dismissed, or no appeal lies, neither party will be allowed in a future suit or proceeding between the same parties to canvass the matter again.”

Ingredients and essentials of section 11

  1. The matter in issue (directly and substantially)has been directly and substantially in issue in a former suit

  2. The former suit had been between the same parties or between parties claiming under them

  3. Must be litigated under the same title in a court competent to try such suit or a suit in which the matter has been subsequently raised and has been heard and finally decided by such court

Gross negligence in the former suit also will be considered by the court and the doctrine of Res Judicata applies but will not apply where there was fraud or collusion.

Jallur Venkata Seshayya v. Tahdaviconda Koteswara Rao, 1937 the court held that, gross negligence in former suit doesn’t amount to fraud or collusion and thus acts as bar to subsequent suit.

The following are also to be taken into account:

  1. Mere institution is not enough, the case should be decided.

  2. The decision should be by a court of competent jurisdiction.

  3. The subject matter of both suit should be exactly or substantially the same.

  4. When persons litigate bonafide in respect of a public/private right claimed in common for themselves and others, all persons interested for the purpose of section 11 , will be deemed as claiming under persons litigating,

In the case of Rural litigation and Entitlement Kendra v State of Uttar Pradesh, the Supreme Court observed that the writ petition before them was not an inter-party dispute and the controversy in it was whether mining was to be allowed or not. Thus it was a matter that decided the social safety and providing hazardous free environment. It was further discussed by the court that this matter was of grave public importance and therefore, res judicata could not be used as a shield.

In Sulochana Amma v. Narayana Nair 1994, the court held, the doctrine of res judicata applies to quasi judicial proceedings before tribunals also.

The doctrine of res judicata can be invoked even in the subsequent stage of the same proceedings. In the case of Y.B. Patil v. Y.L.Patil, the court held that once an order is made in the course of the proceedings, it becomes final and therefore would be binding upon the parties at any subsequent stages of the same proceedings.

Important points

  1. There must be a conflict of interest between the co-plaintiffs

  2. It must be necessary to decide such conflicts, in order to give relief to the plaintiff

  3. The questions between the plaintiffs to be finally decided.

Non-application of res judicata

  1. Habeas corpus petitions: In the case of Sunil Dutt v Union of India, it was held that habeas corpus, filed under fresh grounds and changed circumstances will not be barred by a previous such petition.

  2. Dismissal of writ petition in limine: In Pujari Bai v Madan Gopal, it was held res judicata not applicable when dismissed in limine ( without speaking orders) or on grounds of laches or availability of alternate remedies.

  3. Matter collaterally and incidentally in issue doesn’t operate as res judicata as discussed in the case of Sayed Mohammad v Musa Ummer

  4. Res judicata not applicable to it proceedings or fixing of fair rent proceedings

Res Sub Judice

The doctrine of res sub judice aims to prevent courts of concurrent jurisdiction from simultaneously entertaining and adjudicating upon two parallel litigations with respect to the same cause of action, same subject matter and same relief claimed.

Section 10 of Civil Procedure Code defines ‘Stay of suit’ as follows:

“No Court to proceed with trail of any suit in which the matter in issue, is also directly and substantially in issue. In previously instituted suit between the same parties, or between parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title, where such suit is pending in same or any other Court, in India, Having jurisdiction to grant relief claimed. Explanation: The pendency of a suit in a Foreign Court doesn’t preclude the Courts in India from, trying a suit founded on same cause of action.”

The object of Section 10 is to prevent Courts of concurrent jurisdiction from simultaneously, trying two parallel cases, in respect of same matter in issue. The two fold objects are:

  1. Avoid wasting Court Resources.

  2. Avoid Conflicting decisions.

Conditions or essentials

  1. The matter in issue in both the cases are to be substantially the same

  2. Previously instituted suit must be pending in the same or any other court competent to grant:

  3. Relief claimed in the suit.

  4. Relief claimed in subsequent the suit.

  5. Suits to the parties are to be the same or between parties under whom they or any of them claim, litigating under the same title.

  6. Pendency of suit in Foreign Court doesn’t activate Section 10 CPC.

  7. If suit is pending before a Court and subsequently an application is filed before a Thasildhar, it doesn’t invoke Section 10 as Thasildhar is not a “Court”

  8. For purpose of institution, the date of presentation of plaint and not the date of admission is considered. The term suit includes appeal.

  9. Any decree passed in violation of Section 10 is null and void.

Dees Piston Ltd V State Bank of India 1991: In this case, it was held that. when a matter is before a competent Civil Court, the National Commission will not entertain a petition in respect of identical subject matter under Consumer Protection Act.

Indian Bank V Maharashtra State Co-Operative Marketing Federation 1998: The court in this case held that, the object of prohibition in S.10 CPC, is to, prevent courts of concurrent Jurisdiction from simultaneously trying two parallel cases avoid inconsistent findings on the matter in issue.


The doctrine of Res Sub Judice operates as a stay from the same subject matter in issue being parallel instituted in two different Courts and the twin objectives of Section 10 CPC are, Avoiding conflicting decisions and findings. Avoiding wastage of Court resources and time.

The doctrine of Res Judicata, on the other hand, aims to ensure that a matter once closed after exhaustion of all remedies is not re-opened. This is important as if it were not in place, the cases would go on in perpetuity and there would be no conclusion in any matter.

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