Res judicata and concept of rejection of Plaint

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What is Res Judicata?

The concept of Res Judicata is explained under Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908.

As per Section 11 of CPC 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.

Recently, the Supreme Court in the case of Srihari HanumandasTotala v. Hemant Vithal Kamat & Ors (https://main.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2021/4370/4370_2021_35_1501_29116_Judgement_09-Aug-2021.pdf)  interpreted the concept of “Res Judicata” with respect to Order VII Rule 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908 (“CPC”). To analyse the concept of Order VII Rule 11, it is further imperative to understand prima facie that Order VII Rule 11 lays down instances wherein a “plaint” shall be rejected. Meaning thereby, the instances discussed therein should be considered prima facie at the time of presentation of plaint filed by the plaintiff and no other pleading.

Res judicata- case law- plaint- Code of civil procedure
Res judicata- case law- plaint- Code of civil procedure

The Supreme Court in the above case analyzed Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (CPC). Order 7 Rule 11 of CPC lays down instances when a plaint should be rejected. It includes rejection of plaint:-

  • when it does not disclose a cause of action,
  • where the plaint is insufficiently stamped, or
  • the relief claimed is undervalued, and
  • it further provides that the plaint shall be rejected “where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law”.

The court elaborated the definition of res judicata given in Section 11 of the CPC. It was laid clearly by the court that to decide an issue concerning res judicata, the same issue (that is raised in the suit) has been decided in the former suit. The court referred to the judgement in V. Rajeshwari v. T.C Saravanabava and laid emphasis on the following lines:

basic method to decide the question of res judicata is first to determine the case of the parties as put forward in their respective pleadings of their previous suit and then to find out as to what had been decided by the judgment which operates as res judicata. Not only the plea has to be taken, it has to be substantiated by producing the copies of the pleadings, issues and judgment in the previous case”.

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