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Res Subjudice in CPC

Updated: May 5


Res Sub Judice in CPC


Content:-




Section 10 of Code of Civil Procedure


Section 10 of Code of Civil Procedure reads thus: 


"No court shall proceed with the trial of any suit in which the matter in issue is also directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit between the same parties, or between parties under whom they or any of them claim litigating under the same title where such suit is pending in the same or any other court in India having jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed, or in any court beyond the limits of India established or constituted by the Central Government and having like jurisdiction, or before the Supreme Court." 


Explanation.-The pendency of a suit in foreign court does not preclude the courts in India from trying a suit founded on the same cause of action.


Section 10 stipulates that no court should proceed with the trial of any suit if the matter in question is directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit between the same parties, and the court handling the previous suit is capable of granting the relief sought.


Importantly, this rule pertains specifically to the trial of a suit and does not affect its initiation. Additionally, it does not prohibit a court from issuing interim orders, such as injunctions, stays, or appointing receivers.


However, it does apply to appeals and revisions.


Object of Res Sub Judice


The purpose of Section 10 is to prevent courts of concurrent jurisdiction from simultaneously handling two parallel litigations concerning the same cause of action, subject matter, and relief.


This rule aims to limit a plaintiff to a single legal action, thereby avoiding the possibility of contradictory judgments from the same court on the same relief.


The crucial aspect of Section 10 is the phrase "the matter in issue is directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit."


Thus, the section applies only when the subject matter in dispute is identical. If the matter differs, Section 10 does not come into play.


The primary goal of this section is to safeguard individuals from facing multiple legal proceedings and to prevent conflicting judgments. It also seeks to prevent inconvenience to the parties involved and upholds the principle of res judicata.


It's important to note that Section 10 does not prohibit the initiation of a suit but only bars its trial under specific conditions. Therefore, a subsequent suit cannot be dismissed outright but is typically required to be stayed pending the outcome of the previously instituted suit.

 
 

Essentials of Section 10 of CPC


For Section 10 to apply, the following conditions must be met:


1. There must be two suits, one previously instituted and the other subsequently instituted.


2. The matter in issue in the subsequent suit must be directly and substantially in issue in the previous suit.


3. Both suits must involve the same parties or their representatives.


4. The previously instituted suit must be pending in the same court where the subsequent suit is brought, or in any other court in India or abroad established or continued by the Central Government, or before the Supreme Court.


5. The court handling the previous suit must have jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the subsequent suit.


6. The parties must be litigating under the same title in both suits.


Once these conditions are met, the court cannot proceed with the subsequently instituted suit as Section 10's provisions are mandatory and leave no discretion to the court.


However, it's essential for the entire subject matter in controversy to be the same between the previous and subsequent suits for Section 10 to be applicable. Mere common grounds between the two suits are not sufficient.


The order staying proceedings in the subsequent suit can be issued at any stage. However, Section 10 does not deprive the court of its power to examine the merits of the matter.


If the court finds that the subsequent suit can be decided solely on legal grounds, it retains the authority to adjudicate such a suit.


Ultimately, the test for the applicability of Section 10 is whether the decision in the previously instituted suit would operate as res judicata in the subsequent suit. If so, the subsequent suit must be stayed.


Bar on Trial


Section 10 does not prevent the initiation of a suit but only prohibits its trial. Consequently, the court cannot dismiss the subsequent suit but is obliged to stay its proceedings. In certain situations, it may be imperative for the plaintiff to file a second suit.


For instance, if the limitation period is nearing its expiration, the plaintiff may need to file the second suit promptly, even if the matter is already pending before a competent court for adjudication.

 
 

Inherent Power to Stay


The provisions outlined in Section 10 are mandatory, leaving no discretion to the court. An order to stay proceedings in the subsequent suit can be issued at any stage. 


In cases where Section 10 is applicable, resorting to the inherent powers under Section 151 is not justified. However, if the strict conditions of Section 10 are not met, the court retains inherent power to stay a suit in the interest of justice (Shetty v Giridhar AIR 1982 SC 83).


Similarly, the court possesses inherent power to "consolidate'' different suits involving the same parties and substantially similar issues. Given that the primary objective of Section 10 is to prevent conflicting decisions, the appropriate authority can order the consolidation of both suits (Indian Bank v Maharashtra State Co Op. Marketing Federation Ltd. AIR 1998 SC 1952).



Effect of Contravention


In the case of Pukhraj D. Jain v. G. Gopalakrishna, (2004) 7 SCC 2, it was clarified that a decree passed in contravention of Section 10 is not deemed a nullity. Consequently, it cannot be disregarded in execution proceedings.


As highlighted earlier, Section 10 solely bars the trial and not the institution of the subsequent suit. Therefore, it establishes a procedural rule that can be waived by the parties involved.


If the parties voluntarily waive their right and expressly request the court to proceed with the subsequent suit, they cannot later challenge the validity of the subsequent proceedings.


Indian Bank v Maharashtra State Cooperative Marketing Fed. Ltd.


In the case of Indian Bank v Maharashtra State Cooperative Marketing Fed. Ltd. (AIR 1998 SC 1952), the issue revolved around whether the prohibition to proceed with the trial of a subsequently instituted suit, as stipulated in Section 10, is applicable to summary suits filed under Order 37 of the Code.


The High Court (Single Judge) opined that the concept of trial under Section 10 applies solely to regular/ordinary suits and not to summary suits under Order 37.


However, the Division Bench of the High Court disagreed, asserting that the term "trial" in Section 10 encompasses the entire proceedings after the defendant enters appearance, thereby applying to summary suits as well.


The Supreme Court, concurring with the view of the learned single judge, interpreted the term "trial" in Section 10. It defined "trial" as the judicial examination and determination of issues in a civil or criminal court by a competent tribunal, encompassing all proceedings from the initiation of a plaintiff's case to the final determination by a judgement and decree of the court.


The interpretation of the term "trial" in Section 10 must align with the object and nature of the provision, which aims to prevent concurrent courts from simultaneously trying two parallel suits and to avoid inconsistent findings on the issues.


It is a procedural rule and does not affect the court's jurisdiction to entertain or deal with the subsequent suit.


However, the court clarified that Section 10 does not bar the passing of interlocutory orders, such as consolidation of suits, appointment of a receiver, injunction, or attachment before judgement.


While Section 10 is a general provision applicable to all types of cases, Order 37 applies specifically to certain classes of suits, providing for quick relief. The court emphasised the need to interpret both provisions harmoniously to achieve their respective objectives.


Therefore, in the context of a summary suit, the term "trial" in Section 10 cannot be construed to encompass the entire proceedings from the institution of the suit. Instead, the "trial" in a summary suit commences after the court grants leave to the defendant to contest the suit.


Thus, the court handling a summary suit can proceed up to the stage of hearing the summons for judgement and passing judgement in favour of the plaintiff if certain conditions are met.

 
 

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