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Key Takeaways

  • Res judicata is a legal principle that prevents a court from taking action in a case that another court has already decided.
  • Estoppel prevents the parties from doing certain things, such as denying what he previously stated.
  • Section 11 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908, incorporates the principle of res judicata.
  • Sections 115 to 117 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 incorporated the principle of Estoppel.


Once a civil suit has been decided, no one can file another with the same subject matter and between the same parties. The concept of Res Judicata prevents this. Estoppel is a concept that is similar to this. Due to the similarities between the two doctrines, the concepts of Res Judicata and Estoppel are frequently confused. These two terms are sometimes used incorrectly interchangeably. It is critical to understand the distinctions between these two concepts, mainly if one is a member of the legal profession. The purpose of this article is to explain the various concepts of both terms as well as the differences between them.

What is Res Judicata

Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code defines the doctrine of Res Judicata. The doctrine of Res Judicata states that the case has already been decided. It means that no court will have the authority to try any new case or issue that has already been resolved in a previous case between the same parties. Furthermore, the Court will not hear suits or issues between parties who are litigating under the same title and matter that a competent court has already decided.

As long as no other appeals are pending, a court can grant a decree of Res Judicata and dismiss a suit or issue that the Court has already decided. Suppose the competent court has already decided the matter. In that case, this doctrine holds that no one has the right to reopen it with another suit. As a result, decisions made in one suit between the same parties are binding on all others.

As a rule, the courts will apply the principle of Res Judicata when issues that were directly and substantially at issue between two parties in an earlier suit also appear in the current one. For example, if only a portion of the property was at issue in the prior suit, but the entire property of the parties is at issue in the present or subsequent suit, the Court will grant a decree of Res Judicata.

TheCourt held in Mathura Prasad Bajoo Jaiswal and Ors. v. Dossibai N.B. Jeejeebhoy (1971 AIR 2355)that "the matter in issue" in Section 11 C.P.C. refers to the right litigated between the parties, i.e., the facts on which the right is claimed or repudiated, and the law applicable to the resolution of that issue. The issue must have been substantially an issue in a previous suit, according to Section 11. In the former suit, however, determining whether an issue is substantial or collateral may be difficult.

The Supreme Court of India held in the case of Ragho Prasad Gupta v. Krishna Poddar (A.I.R. 1969 SC 316) that a mere expression of opinion on a question that is not in issue could not be treated as res judicata.

In the case of Mavelikkara Ex-Servicemen's Multipurpose Co-operative Society v. Parvathy Amma Rajamma (Civil Revision Petition No. 2917 Of 1983), the Kerala High Court held that the identity of the subject matter under Res-Judicata is to identify the subject matter not only in a physical sense but also in a legal sense.

In Krishan Kumar v. Vimala Sehgal (I.L.R. 1976 Delhi 238), the Delhi High Court held that if the circumstances change, a second petition for own occupation can be filed even if the Rent Controller rejected the landlord's first application.

In the case ofVasudevanandSaraswati v. Jagat Guru Shankaracharya, the Allahabad High Court stated that "same title" means "same capacity." The question is whether the litigant is the same or a different person in law. The decision in the previous suit does not serve as res judicata if the same person is a party in a different character.Similarly, because the property is identical, the subsequent suit will not be res judicata if the rights claimed to differ. As a result, the title refers to the party suing or being sued rather than the cause of action.

In Muneesh Kumar Agnihotri and others v. Lalli Prasad Gupta (A.I.R. 1989 All 202), the Allahabad High Court held that the doctrine of res judicata would apply only when an issue was directly and substantially an issue in the previous suit between the same parties or between the parties under whom they or any of them claim to litigate under the same title.

What is Estoppel

The provisions relating to the Doctrine of Estoppel are laid out in Part III, Chapter VII of the Indian Evidence Act 1872, containing Sections 115 to 117. Estoppel of tenant and licensee of persons in possession is addressed in Section 116 of the said Act.

When one person, either by his act or omission or by declaration, has persuaded another person to believe something to be true and act on it, then he or his representative cannot deny the truth of that thing later in the suit or the proceedings, according to Section 115 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. In layman's terms, estoppel means that one cannot contradict, deny, or declare false a prior statement made in Court.

Res judicata is a similar concept. The parties, their representatives, executors, and others are all bound by the decision of the Court once it has been rendered. This doctrine prevents the parties to a case from bringing a new suit in the same case or disputing the facts of the case after the Court has rendered its decision.

In the case of Canada and Dominion Sugar Co. Ltd. v. Canadian National (West Indies) Steamships Ltd., 1947 A.C. 46 at p. 56 (P.C.), it was held that the legislature's intent was similar in that both of these provisions were enacted into their respective statutes. The doctrine of res judicata is frequently referred to as a branch of estoppel law.

In the case of Sardar Chand Singh v. Commissioner; Burdwan Division (A.I.R. 1958 Cal 420),As a result of his alleged involvement in a gruesome murder case and other cases, Chand Singh, the Managing Director of Messrs., was denied a revolver licence. Chand did not appeal the District Magistrate's decision that he could not hold a revolver licence due to public order and safety concerns. This gave rise to the reasonable assumption that he had agreed to it. When he later applied to the District Magistrate to have his case reconsidered, he was denied due to the doctrine of "Estoppel by Conduct."

The High Court of Orissa held inJatindra Prasad Das v. State of Orissa &Ors. (W.P. C 21449/2011)that Estoppel cannot be used against statutes and statutory provisions. It was also stated that statutory provisions could not be ignored in any circumstance, even if there is precedent or a previous administrative decision to support it.

Estoppel by convention occurs when parties to a transaction assume the facts or the law, according to the case of Republic of India v. India Steam Ship Company Limited [1998] AC 878. This assumption could be made by both parties or by one of them. Under this principle, parties to an agreement cannot deny the assumed facts. It would be unfair and unjust to allow one or more parties to go back on their assumptions.

The Supreme Court held in Central Airman Selection Board v. Surendra Kumar Das (A.I.R. 2002 SC 214) that if a person has made a false representation and induced the authority to act on it, he cannot challenge it on the basis of promissory estoppel. If the authority discovers that it has been misled, it has the authority to terminate the agreement.

The Court upheld in State of Maharashtra v. Anita (CA 6132-33/2016) that once a person has been appointed as an employee under a contract and has accepted all of its terms and conditions, he is estopped from challenging the term of the appointment later on.

The Differences between Res Judicata and Estoppel

The Court's final decision is known as res judicata. It forbids the parties from re-litigating the issues that were or could have been raised in the particular case. Whereas, issue estoppel is a legal principle that states that even if a court has made a decision, re-litigation of that issue on a different course of action involving either of the parties involved in the first case is prohibited.

The most significant distinctions can be summed up as follows: origin, development, authority, prohibitory value, and binding nature. The point of origin of res judicata is a court decision in a previous case, while the origin of estoppel is the act of the parties. Res judicata doctrine was created to protect public policy by ending the litigation. In contrast,estoppel is based on equity principles and therefore prohibits multiple representations. Res judicata, on the other hand, prohibits the filing of multiple lawsuits.

In legal terms, res judicata is a bar to a court's jurisdiction and a fundamental test for bringing a lawsuit; on the other hand, estoppel is merely a doctrine observed in evidence that prevents the parties from speaking further. If another court previously decided on the case, res judicata prevents this Court from taking further action. On the other hand, estoppel forbids the parties from performing certain acts, denying what he had previously said. To put it another way, both doctrines have prohibitory values in that they both forbid people from asserting the same thing repeatedly in Court. At the same time,estoppel prevents someone from saying something they've already said, and the consequences have already come as a result.

It was held in Pratima Choudhary v. Kalpana Mukherjee A.I.R. 2014 SC 1304 that the instantaneous alteration of position should be such that requiring him to return to the original position would be iniquitous. As a result, the doctrine of estoppel would only apply when the second party alters his position as a result of the first party's representation in such a way that it would be unfair to restore the initial position.

The effect of res judicata is binding on both litigants because both parties have approached a subsequent court for the same matter. Hence, res judicata applies to both parties. When estoppel is used, a binding effect only applies to the party who made the previous statement or conduct, and as a result, only that person will be held responsible for the new course of action.

In Supreme Court Employees' Welfare Assn. v. Union of India A.I.R. 1990 SC 334, the Apex Court stated that litigation would never end without the rule of res judicata, and the parties would be subjected to constant trouble, harassment, and expenses.

InMaddanappa v. Chandramma A.I.R. 1965 SC 1812,it was stated that the legislature's goal in enacting the doctrine of estoppel is to prevent fraud and ensure fairness between parties by encouraging honesty and good faith. As a result, if one person misrepresents a fact to another, the rule of estoppel does not apply because the other person knows the true state of facts and thus could not have been misled by the misrepresentation.

The Supreme Court observed in Batul Begum v. Hem Chander A.I.R. 1960 All 519 that the rule of constructive res judicata is nothing more than a rule of estoppel because constructive res judicata is a legal fiction created by the Court in which the matter in issue is treated as if it might and ought to have been the matter directly and substantially in issue in a subsequent suit.


Both Res Judicata and Estoppel are concepts that are widely accepted throughout the world's jurisdictions. As a result, doctrines such as Res Judicata and Estoppel have gained prominence in Indian law. This doctrine binds Indian civil courts as well as administrative law and other legislation. Arguments for and against res judicata are subject to public policy considerations.

As a result, the doctrine of Res Judicata limits a plaintiff's ability to recover damages from the defendant on the same injury more than once. In contrast, the Doctrine of Estoppel safeguards people from fraud or misrepresentation. This theory steers clear of those kinds of situations by holding the offender accountable for his wrongful actions. Hence, this article has tried to explain the essential points of differences.


  • Which Section of the Code of Civil Procedure deals with the concept of Res Judicata?
  • Which Section of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872defines Estoppel?

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