A brief study on the doctrine of Res Judicata

A brief study on the doctrine of Res Judicata

The term Res Judicata has been derived from Latin Maxim, which stand for ‘the thing has been judged.’ The meaning of Res Judicata is that the issue before the court has already been adjudicated by another court between the same parties. In that scenario, the court will dismiss the case before it as being useless. The concept of Res Judicata is applicable in both civil as well as criminal proceedings. Once a final judgment has been announced in a lawsuit, the judge would apply the Res Judicata doctrine if the identical lawsuit is filed before him. Therefore, the same case cannot be taken up again either in same or in different court in India.

Meaning of Res Judicata:

In literally terms ‘Res’ mean subject matter and ‘Judicata’ means adjudged and together it is means a matter adjudged. In simplest terms, the thing has been judged by the court. If issue before a court has already been decided by another court between the same parties then court will dismiss it as it barred by the doctrine of Res Judicata. It applies to both civil and criminal legal systems. Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code embodies the doctrine of Res Judicata.


The Term Res Judicata is of Roman origin and based on three maxims first one is Nemo debet bis vexari pro una et eadem causa’ means no man should be vexed for the same cause. Second is Interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium’ means it is in the interest of state that there should be an end to litigation. The last one is  ‘Res Judicata pro veritate acciputor’ which means that issue once decided attains finality and no further case can be filed to decide the similar issue. This concept has evolved from the English Common Law System. From the common law it got included in the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 and laterally adopted as a whole by Indian legal system. It was also known as ‘Purva Nyaya’ under ancient Hindu Law.


The doctrine of Res Judicata is a cardinal notion based on public policy and private regards. It is applicable to the matters such as civil suits, execution proceedings, arbitration proceedings, taxation matters, writ petitions, administrative orders, interim orders and criminal proceedings etc.

Conditions of Res Judicata:

Before applying the doctrine of Res Judicata, there are some pre-requisite conditions which need to be fulfilled. These are enumerated below:-

  • There must be final judgment.
  • That judgment must be based on merits.
  • The claim must be same as in the previous suit.
  • The parties to the suit must be same as in the previous one.
  • The suit must be filed under same name before the court having similar jurisdiction.

It is notable that earlier decision of the court is wrong or right is not relevant in application of Res Judicata.

Res Judicata and Res Sub-Judice:

The doctrine of Res Judicata puts a bar on matter which has already been adjudicated whereas Res Sub-Judice means bar on fresh matter because earlier matter on the same facts with same title is pending between the same parties before the court. The term sub-judice indicates the idea that matter is being considered by court of law. In a case where two or more cases are filed by same parties on same subject matter which is already pending then the competent court has the power to stay proceedings.   

Constructive Res Judicata:

The scope of Res Judicata is also applicable on a suit where a party could have raised a plea against another party in a former suit and failed to do so and has filed a suit later raising such plea. This concept is called constructive Res Judicata. The rule of constructive Res Judicata assists in raising the bar. In State of U.P v. Nawab Hussain 1977 AIR 1680 respondent was an Inspector and dismissed from the service by D.I.G. He challenged the order of dismissal by way of filing writ petition in the High Court. He took the plea that he did not get a reasonable opportunity of being heard before passing the order. However, the same was negatived and the petition stands dismissed. He filed a fresh petition on the ground that he was appointed by the I.G.P. and D.I.G. has no power to dismiss him. The State contended that the additional ground taken by him is barred by Res-Judicata but High Court allowed his petition. Subsequently State of UP moved to the Supreme Court whereby Hon’ble Bench of Court held that respondent was barred by constructive Res-Judicata as court said that the plea was within his knowledge and could be taken earlier.

Res Judicata in criminal proceedings:

This doctrine is also applicable in criminal cases because of its universe application. In Bhagat Ram v. State of Rajasthan AIR 1972 SC 1502 SC held that once person is acquitted or convicted by the competent court of law he cannot once again be tried for same offences as it is barred by the doctrine of Res Judicata.

Res Judicata in interim orders:

The doctrine of Res-Judicata is applied in the different stages of the pending suit. In Ajay Mohan v. H.N. Rai AIR 2008 SC 804 SC held that if there is interim order decided by the court during the pendency of the suit then it will operate as Res-Judicata in all the subsequent suits. In that circumstance, the aggrieved party can only avail the remedy of filing an appeal against the interim order of lower court before the higher court.


Doctrine of Res Judicata is considered as the backbone of the Code of Civil Procedure which restrains either party to move the clock back during the pendency of proceedings before the court. The basic idea behind the incorporation of this doctrine is to decrease the number of pending cases before the court of law. This doctrine has a very wide scope as it covers the areas of law even outside the ambit of the Civil Procedure Code.

-Kiranpreet Kaur

Associate at Aggarwals & Associates S.A.S. Nagar, Mohali