RES JUDICATA & ESTOPPEL
Res judicata or Res iudicata, a Latin word for "a matter [already] judged", is, in both civil law and common law legal systems, a case in which there has been a final judgment and is no longer subject to appeal. The term is also used to refer to the doctrine meant to bar (or preclude) re-litigation of such cases between the same parties, which is different between the two legal systems. In this latter usage, the term is synonymous with "preclusion." Once a final judgment has been handed down in a lawsuit, subsequent judges who are confronted with a suit that is identical to or substantially the same as the earlier one will apply the res judicata doctrine to preserve the effect of the first judgment. This is to prevent injustice to the parties of a case supposedly finished, but perhaps mostly to avoid unnecessary waste of resources in the court system.
Res judicata does not merely prevent future judgments from contradicting earlier ones, but also prevents them from multiplying judgments, so a prevailing plaintiff could not recover damages from the defendant twice for the same injury.
Dictionary meaning in general is: a matter finally decided on its merits by a court having competent jurisdiction and not subject to litigation again between the same parties
The principle of Res judicata is basedupon the maxim that no one shall be vexed twice over the same matter. Res judicata is a form of estoppel. But differ by conduct in essential particulars.
Res judicata is based on public policy. Doctrine of res judicata is a very important doctrine in Civil Law. Civil Procedure code 1908 embodied doctrine of res judicata as follows:
S. 11. Res judicata.
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.
Explanation I- The expression "former suit" shall denote a suit which has been decided prior to the suit in question whether or not it was instituted prior thereto.
Explanation II.- For the purposes of this section, the competence of a Court shall be determined irrespective of any provisions as to a right of appeal from the decision of such Court.
Explanation III.- The matter above referred to must in the former suit have been alleged by one party and either denied or admitted, expressly or impliedly, by the other.
Explanation IV.- Any matter which might and ought to have been made ground of defense or attack in such former suit shall be deemed to have been a matter directly and substantially in issue in such suit.
Explanation V.- Any relief claimed in the plaint, which is not expressly granted by the decree, shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to have been refused.
Explanation VI- Where persons litigate bona fide in respect of public right or of a private right claimed in common for themselves and others, all persons interested in such right shall, for the purposes of this section, be deemed to claim under the persons so litigating.
[Explanation VII.- The provisions of this section shall apply to a proceeding for the execution of a decree and reference in this section to any suit, issue or former suit shall be construed as references, respectively, to proceedings for the execution of the decree, question arising in such proceeding and a former proceeding for the execution of that decree.
Explanation VIII.-An issue heard and finally decided by a Court of limited jurisdiction, competent to decide such issue, shall operate as res judicata in as subsequent suit, notwithstanding that such Court of limited jurisdiction was not competent to try such subsequent suit or the suit in which such issue has been subsequently raised.]
Section 11 is mandatory. Res judicata is branch or species of rule of estoppel called estoppel by record.
Estoppel is a legal doctrine recognized both at common law and in equity in various forms. It is meant to complement the requirement of consideration in contract law. In general it protects a party who would suffer detriment if:
- The defendant has done or said something to induce an expectation
- The plaintiff relied (reasonably) on the expectation...
- ...and would suffer detriment if that expectation were false.
Unconscionability by the defendant has been accepted as another element by courts in an attempt to unify the many individual rules of estoppel.
Estoppel is generally only a defense that prevents a representor from enforcing legal rights, or from relying on a set of facts that would give rise to enforceable rights (e.g. words said or actions performed) if that enforcement or reliance would be unfair to the representee. Because its effect is to defeat generally enforceable legal rights, the scope of the remedy is often limited. Note, however, that proprietary estoppel (applicable in English land law) can be both a sword and a shield and the scope of its remedy is wide. For an example of estoppel, consider the case of a debtor and a creditor. The creditor might unofficially inform the debtor that the debt has been forgiven. Even if the original contract was not terminated, the creditor may be estopped from collecting the debt if the creditor changes its position later. It would be unfair to allow the creditor to change their mind in light of the unofficial agreement he made with the debtor beforehand. In the same way, a landlord might inform a tenant that rent has been reduced, for example, if there was construction or a lapse in utility services. If the tenant relies on this notice, the landlord could be estopped from collecting the full rent. Estoppel is closely related to the doctrines of waiver, variation, and election and is applied in many areas of law, including insurance, banking, employment, international trade, etc. In English law, the concept of legitimate expectation in the realm of administrative law and judicial review is estoppel's counterpart in public law, although subtle but important differences exist.
Doctrine of estoppel is embodied in S.115 of Indian Evidence Act.
S.115. Estoppel - When one person has by his declaration, act or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act upon such belief, neither he nor his representative shall be allowed, in any suit or proceeding between himself and such person or his representative, to deny the truth of that thing.
Illustration:- A intentionally and falsely leads B to believe that certain land belongs to A, and thereby induces B to buy and pay for it. The land afterwards, becomes the property of A, and A seeks to set aside the sale on the ground that, at the time of the sale, he had no title. He must not be allowed to prove his want to title.
Three conditions are to be satisfied to attract estoppel.
1. Representation by a person to another
2. the other shall have acted upon the said representation; and
3. such action shall have detrimental to the interests of the person to whom the representation has been made – AIR 1965 SC 1055.
Res judicata and estoppel
Doctrine of Estoppel resulted from the acts and conduct of parties while res judicata arises from the decision of court. If an issue though not directly arising out of the pleadings is formal and a decision is actually given on it, it may be that the decision will operate as res judicata when the same issue arises in a subsequent suit.
Res judicata ousts the jurisdiction of the court while estoppel does not but shut the mouth of the party.
Res judicata is a form of estoppel. But differ by conduct in essential particulars.
Res judicata result from a decision of the court based on public policy ousts the jurisdiction of the court and presumed conclusively the truth of the former decision.
Estoppel results from acts of parties and based on equity and formulates only a rule of evidence and prevents a person from setting up what he calls the truth AIR 1960 Mad 381.
There is no estoppel against a statute.
With regards Adv.K.C.Suresh, Kerala