Res judicata is not a ground to reject a plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) CPC - Supreme Court
Table of contents
Database of Supreme Court Case
- Title of the case
Facts of the case
- Soumitra Kumar Sen v. Shyamal Kumar Sen
- Rajeshwari v. T.C. Saravanabava
- Kamala & others v. KT Eshwara Sa
- Church of Christ Charitable Trust & Educational Charitable Society v. Ponniamman Educational Trust
- Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd. v. Central Bank of India and Another
Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah hon’ble judges of Supreme Court observed that the Res Judicata cannot be a ground for rejection of the plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure. Since an adjudication of the plea of res judicata requires consideration of the pleadings, issues and decision in the ‘previous suit’, such a plea will be beyond the scope of Order 7 Rule 11 (d), where only the statements in the plaint will have to be perused. Order 7 Rule 11(d) of CPC provides that the plaint shall be rejected “where the suit appears from the statement in the plaint to be barred by any law”. Hence, in order to decide whether the suit is barred by any law, it is the statement in the plaint which will have to be construed. The Court while deciding such an application must have due regard only to the statements in the plaint. Whether the suit is barred by any law must be determined from the statements in the plaint and it is not open to decide the issue on the basis of any other material including the written statement in the case.
Supreme Court Case
Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah
Title of the case
Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Hemant Vithal Kamat & Ors
Civil Appeal No 4665/2021
Arising out of SLP (C) No.3899 of 2021
Facts of the case
Ms. Leela Vithal Kamat was the title holder of the suit property. On her death, the property was mutated in the names of her legal heirs i.e., the first respondent and his brother. The first respondent and his brother took a loan from the Karnataka State Finance Corporation and mortgaged the suit property as security for repayment of the loan. Since the loan was not repaid, Karnataka State Finance Corporation auctioned the property. The third respondent, who is the predecessor-in-interest of the appellant, furnished the highest bid of Rs. 15,00,000 and therefore sale deed was executed in his name. But the first respondent and his brother didn’t handover possession of the property to him and thereafter he has filed a suit for possession.
On 26 February 2009, the Trial Judge decreed the first suit that was instituted by the third respondent and directed the defendants (first respondent and his brother) in the suit to hand over vacant and peaceful possession of the suit property to the third respondent-plaintiff. The first respondent appealed against the judgment of the Trial Court before the High Court. The High Court upheld the judgement of the trial court and dismissed the appeal.
The appellant who has purchased the suit property from the third respondent, filed an application for rejection of plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC on the grounds of:
(i) non-payment of court fee;
(ii) non-disclosure of cause of action; and
(iii) the suit being barred by res judicata.
It was contended that the suit instituted by the first respondent was barred by res judicata as the grounds relating to the validity of the sale deed and the issue of title were raised in the previous suit.
In the suit filed by the plaintiff, the defendant filed an application for rejection of plaint on the ground that the suit was barred by res judicata under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC as the grounds relating to the validity of the sale deed and the issue of title were raised in the previous suit. The Trial Court, while rejecting this application held that the issue as to whether the suit is barred by res judicata cannot be decided in an Order 7 Rule 11 application but has to be decided in the suit. The High Court dismissed the Revision Petition filed against the order of the Trial Court.
Soumitra Kumar Sen v. Shyamal Kumar Sen, (2018) 5 SCC 644 – In the case it was held that the application filed under Order 7 Rule 11(d) on the ground of res judicata could not be decided merely by looking into the averments in the plaint.
V. Rajeshwari v. T.C. Saravanabava, (2004) 1 SCC 551 – In the case Justice R C Lahoti said that “The rule of res judicata does not strike at the root of the jurisdiction of the court trying the subsequent suit. It is a rule of estoppel by judgment based on the public policy that there should be a finality to litigation and no one should be vexed twice for the same cause.”
Kamala & others v. KT Eshwara Sa – Court held that for the purpose of invoking Order 7 Rule 11(d) of the Code, no amount of evidence can be looked into. The issues on merit of the matter which may arise between the parties would not be within the realm of the court at that stage. All issues shall not be the subject-matter of an order under the said provision. If there is a mixed question of law and fact which may require not only examination of the plaint but also other evidence and the order passed in the earlier suit may be taken up either as a preliminary issue or at the final hearing, but, the said question cannot be determined at that stage.
Church of Christ Charitable Trust & Educational Charitable Society v. Ponniamman Educational Trust – The court observed that for the purposes of deciding an application under clauses (a) and (d) of Rule 11 of Order 7 CPC, the averments in the plaint are germane; the pleas taken by the defendant in the written statement would be wholly irrelevant at that stage, therefore, a direction to file the written statement without deciding the application under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC cannot but be procedural irregularity touching the exercise of jurisdiction by the trial court.
Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd. v. Central Bank of India and Another – Court observed that the Order 7 Rule 11, the court has to look into the averments in the plaint and the same can be exercised by the trial court at any stage of the suit.
The court held that the guiding principles for deciding an application under Order 7 Rule 11(d) can be summarized as follows:
- To reject a plaint on the ground that the suit is barred by any law, only the averments in the plaint will have to be referred to;
- The defense made by the defendant in the suit must not be considered while deciding the merits of the application;
- To determine whether a suit is barred by res judicata, it is necessary that
- the ‘previous suit’ is decided,
- the issues in the subsequent suit were directly and substantially in issue in the former suit;
- the former suit was between the same parties or parties through whom they claim, litigating under the same title; and
- that these issues were adjudicated and finally decided by a court competent to try the subsequent suit; and
iv. Since an adjudication of the plea of res judicata requires consideration of the pleadings, issues and decision in the ‘previous suit’, such a plea will be beyond the scope of Order 7 Rule 11 (d), where only the statements in the plaint will have to be perused.
Therefore, the plaint, on the face of it, does not disclose any fact that may lead to the conclusion that it deserves to be rejected on the ground that it is barred by principles of res judicata. Hence, the court dismissed the appeal and affirms the impugned judgment and order of the High Court dated 18 January 2021. The application under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC was dismissed.