The term ‘res judicata’ means ‘thing already decided by a competent court’. Section 11 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908 embodies the doctrine of res judicata in India. It states that no court shall try any suit or issue in which the issue directly and substantially, in a former suit, between the same parties or their representatives, in a competent court, has been heard and finally decided by such court. This principle rests on two principles i.e. (i) one should not be vexed twice for same cause; and (ii) there should be finality to litigation. Where there has been an executable judgement between the parties, the rule of res judicata will prevent a fresh suit between them for the same relief.
There are five conditions which must be satisfied for the application of res judicata:
- The matter directly and substantially in issue in the subsequent suit 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 the parties under whom they claim.
- In the former suit, the parties must have litigated under the same title.
- The court which decided the former suit must have been a court which is competent to try this subsequent suit.
- The matter which is directly and substantially in issue in the subsequent suit must have been heard and finally decided by the court in the former suit.
The basic objects and operation of the provisions of Section 11 were observed by the Supreme Court in the case of Satyadhyan Ghosal vs. Deorajin Debi (AIR 1960 SC 941) which states that when a matter between two parties is decided, either on the basis of question of fact or question of law and the decision is final, neither party shall be allowed to pursue the matter again and harass the other party.
In the absence of rule like res judicata there would have been endless litigation and parties would be going through continuous harassment and incurring huge expenses. The principle of res judicata has been evolved from common law system and now is been included in jurisprudence of every well regulated country. The basic idea behind this principle is that every litigation must come to an end and therefore, it applies to civil suits, tax matters, criminal proceedings, administrative laws etc.