HM Journal

Res Judicata is not a ground for dismissal of a Plaint under Order 7 Rule 11(d) of CPC

For the establishment of a Suit in a Civil or Commercial Court, a plant is filed. The article shall deal with the observation of the Supreme Court in the case of Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Dr Hemant Vithal Kamat[1]  constituting a Division bench of Justice Dr D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah on the principle that Res Judicata is not a Ground for the dismissal of a plaint under Order VII Rule 11(d) of the Code of Civil Procedure.

ORDER VII RULE 11(d) OF THE CPC AND THE PRINCIPLE OF RES JUDICATA

Order VII Rule 11(d) of the CPC, states that “Where the suit appears from the declaration or statement in the plaint to be barred by any law”, the plant will be dismissed. It is a subclause of Order VII Rule 11 which deals with the provision of rejection of a plaint by the court in certain situations and limitations.

The principle of Res Judicata states that – A court may not try any suit or issue in which the directly in issue topic has been heard and decided in a previous suit, whether directly or indirectly.

FACTS OF THE CASE

The parties to the instant appeal were involved in a property dispute, despite the lack of specifics. The suit property was originally owned by the respondent and his brother, and it was mortgaged to the Karnataka State Finance Corporation (KSFC) as loan collateral.

The suit property was auctioned by KSFC when the loan was not repaid and the appellant eventually purchased it. The defendant and his brother neglected to return the suit property to the plaintiff. As a result, the appellant brought a possession suit (the 2007 suit) several defences were made by the respondent. During the court proceedings of the 2007 suit, the respondent also filed a suit (the 2008 suit) disputing KSFC’s sale deed in the appellant’s favour, claiming that KSFC lacked the authorization to sell the suit property.

The trial court ruled in favour of the appellant in the 2007 suit in 2009. The respondent filed an appeal against the trial court’s decision, but the Karnataka High Court upheld the judgement of the trial court. The appellant filed an application for rejection of the plaint in the 2008 Suit under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC, based on the verdict in the 2007 Suit, on many grounds, the most important of which was res judicata. The arguments in the 2008 Suit relating to the legality of the sale document and the issue of the title, it was argued, had previously been presented in the prior 2007 Suit. The appellant argued that the parties’ rights cannot be adjudicated and relitigated following the verdict in the 2007 Suit resolved the issues in favour of the appellant.

Consequently, the appellant’s motion under Order 7 Rule 11 CPC was denied by the trial court, and the appellant’s revision plea before the High Court was also dismissed. Further, the appellant took his case to the Supreme Court.

OBSERVANCES AND THE PRINCIPLES LAID DOWN BY THE SUPREME COURT

The two-judge bench observed in the case –

The defendant submitted an application for rejection of the plaint under Order 7 Rule 11 of the CPC in response to the plaintiff’s complaint, claiming that the suit was prohibited by res judicata since the grounds relating to the tangibility of the deal deed and the issue of the title were raised within the past suit. The Trial Court, in denying this application, stated that the question of whether the suit is precluded by res judicata must be decided in the litigation rather than in an Order 7 Rule 11 application. The Revision Petition filed against the Trial Court’s order was dismissed by the High Court.

The Court further cited several judgements on the facet of Res Judicata involving Soumitra Sen v. Shyamal Kumar Sen[2], Kamala & others v. KT Eshwara Sa[3] , Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd v. Central Bank of India[4]  and framed the following principle guideline –

“(i) 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;

(ii) The defence made by the defendant in the suit must not be considered while deciding the merits of the application;

(iii) To determine whether a suit is barred by res judicata, it is necessary that

(a) the ‘previous suit’ is decided,

(b) the issues in the subsequent suit were directly and substantially in issue in the former suit;

(c) the former suit was between the same parties or parties through whom they claim, litigating under the same title; and (d) 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 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.”[5] 

The Court stated that, based on the evidence, a reading of the plaint in the 2008 Suit reveals that the respondent did not attempt to hide the knowledge that the 2007 Suit concerning the property was already pending before the trial court. The Court also deemed it important to notice that no decree had been issued in the 2007 Suit at the time the 2008 Suit was filed. As a result, the issues mentioned in the 2008 lawsuit had not been resolved. As a result, the Court concluded that the plaint, prima facie, did not reveal any facts that could lead to the judgement that it deserved to be dismissed based on res judicata principles. The High Court and the trial court were justified in their approach in determining that, in order to rule on the appellant’s arguments, the court would have to look beyond the plaint’s averments and examine the pleadings, decision, and decree in the 2007 Suit. The Supreme Court expressed, that “an application under Order 7 Rule 11  must be chosen inside the four corners of the plaint.”

JUDGEMENT

The Supreme Court ruled that the plaint was not subject to rejection under Order 7 Rule 11(d) and upheld the Trial Court’s and High Court’s conclusions. The court allowed the freedom to the appealing party, who claims as an assignee of the bona fide buyer of the suit property in the auction conducted by KSFC, to raise an issue of the viability of the suit and determined that the plaint in the 2008 Suit was not subject to Order 7 Rule 11(d) rejection. The trial court’s and the High Court’s decisions were upheld. It was noted, however, that the Court did not express a view on whether the later claim was precluded by res judicata principles. The appellant was given the opportunity to raise this matter in front of the trial court.

CONCLUSION

The Code of Civil Procedure is a thorough statute which covers the total method which should be followed by all the Respectful Courts in India. The plaint is the primary step to recording a suit within the Court. It must be drafted with due constancy. It must incorporate all the particulars that have been specified in Order VII of the Code

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1.         Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Dr Hemant Vithal Kamat, LL 2021 SC 364 (CA. 4665 of 2021) https://main.sci.gov.in/jonew/cl/2021-08-09/M_J_2_97_29116.pdf.

2.         Team of Advocate Retainer, Suit is barred by law must be determined from the statements in the plaint and not from WS, Plea of Res Judicata beyond the scope of Order 7 Rule 11 (d)CPC: Supreme Court, BLOGS (Aug. 15, 2021, 12:42 AM), https://www.advocateretainer.com/blogs/property-disputes-latest-news-update/suit-is-barred-by-any-law-must-be-determined-from-the-statements-in-the-plaint-and-not-from-ws-plea-of-res-judicata-beyond-the-scope-of-order-7-rule-11-dcpc-supreme-court.

3.         Res Judicata Is Not A Ground To Reject A Plaint Under Order VII Rule 11(d) CPC: Supreme Court, TOP STORIES (Aug. 15, 2021, 12:46 AM),  https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/supreme-court-rejection-of-plaint-res-judicata-ground-order-vii-rule-11-cpc-179193 .

4.         Tejaswi Pandit, Conundrum of res judicata and rejection of plaint: SC summarises guiding principles for deciding an application under Or. 7 R. 11(d) CPC, CASE BRIEFS  (Aug. 15, 2021, 12:49 AM), https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2021/08/10/conundrum-of-res-judicata-and-rejection-of-plaint/.

ARTICLE – RES JUDICATA IS NOT A GROUND FOR DISMISSAL OF A PLAINT UNDER ORDER VII RULE 11(d) OF THE CPC

WRITTEN BY: NAMIRA SIRAJ

COLLEGE NAME: ALIGARH MUSLIM UNIVERSITY, UTTAR PRADESH (5th SEMESTER)


[1] Srihari Hanumandas Totala v. Dr Hemant Vithal Kamat, LL 2021 SC 364 (CA. 4665 of 2021).

[2] Soumitra Sen v. Shyamal Kumar Sen, (2018) 5 SCC 644.

[3] Kamala & others v. KT Eshwara Sa, (2008) 12 SCC 661.

[4] Shakti Bhog Food Industries Ltd v. Central Bank of India, 2017 SCC OnLine Del 6395.

[5] FOR JUDGEMENT – Supreme Court of India,  https://main.sci.gov.in/jonew/cl/2021-08-09/M_J_2_97_29116.pdf (Aug. 14, 2021).

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