The significance of ‘doctrine of Res Subjudice’ is to avoid multiplicity of suit and conflict of decisions before the court of competent jurisdiction. Indian judiciary is already burdened with a number of pending cases and faces a stark lack of resources to deal with them. Therefore, it is necessary to avoid multiplicity of proceedings through the use of this doctrine and in order to correct the redundancy of suits and frivolous litigation.
The article talks about the ‘doctrine of Res Subjudice provided under section 10 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 which states about the stay of suit where the case is under consideration. It generally means that a suit or matter is pending before the court of law. Thus, it provides that civil courts have no power to deal with the trial of any suit where the subject matter is same as previously instituted suit between the same parties and court of law is competent to grant relief to the parties. In addition to this, the article deals with the essential conditions required under this doctrine and its application in India with landmark cases.
Keywords: Stay of suit, multiplicity of proceedings, conflict of decisions, pending suit.
Res generally means every object of right which is used as the subject matter in a particular case. Subjudice in Latin term means ‘under judgment’ or a matter ‘under consideration.’ Thus, Res Subjudice means a cause or subject matter that is pending before the court of law or judge. This doctrine is significant under the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 as it prevents the trail of a case which is pending before a court of competent jurisdiction. It is generally applied, when the same parties file two or more suits where the subject matter is the same, the court has inherent power to stay pending suit of another court.
Section 10 of the Civil Procedure Code, 1908 deals with Doctrine of Res Subjudice. This doctrine is also called ‘stay of the suit.’ This doctrine is significant in order to ensure effective and timely justice by the court of law.
Scope and objective
The doctrine of Res Subjudice grants power to the court to stay the proceedings of the trial where the subject matter in issue is the same as the previously instituted suit between the same parties and the court where the suit is previously instituted has competent jurisdiction to pass effective order or grant the relief sought. This rule is applicable to the trial of a suit and not the institution of suit thereof. However, the doctrine is applicable to appeals and revisions under the provisions of the Code. It also does not restrict the court to pass interim orders which include an injunction or stay on the suit, the appointment of receiver etc.
The object of this doctrine under the provisions of CPC is to preclude courts of competent or concurrent jurisdiction from simultaneously adjudicating the two parallel suits where the subject matter is the same between the same parties sought to achieve the same relief. Therefore, the main objective is to avoid multiplicity of proceedings, minimize frivolous litigation and unnecessary delay.
In the case of Guru Prasad v. Bijay Kumar, the court held that “the policy of the law is to avoid the conflict of interest and possibility of two contradictory decisions. If the consolidation of two suits helps generate the same underlying principle, it would not in any way hinder the policy behind the doctrine of res Subjudice.”
The essential conditions that are required to be fulfilled to come under the purview of this doctrine are:
- There must be two pending suits one previously instituted and the other subsequently instituted before the court of law.
- The subject matter in the previously instituted suit must be directly and substantially related in the subsequent suit.
- The parties or their legal representatives in the pending litigation must be the same.
- The jurisdiction of the court must be same for the previously instituted suit as well as a subsequent suit.
- The court where the suit is previously instituted must have competent jurisdiction to grant the relief claimed in the subsequent suit.
- The parties who are litigating must possess the same title in both the suits.
However, it is noted that the court has no power to ‘barred’ the institution of a subsequent suit but can restrict its ‘trial’ only. The final adjudication of the former suit can be brought under res judicata in the subsequent suit.
In Neeta v. Shiv Dayal Kapoor and Ors., the Court held that “the subsequent matter cannot be stayed if the conditions mentioned in Section 10 are not fulfilled. In the apparent case, the two courts which tried the same issues were not the courts having concurrent jurisdiction. Therefore, the proceedings in the subsequent court were not stayed.”
Inherent power to stay
The word inherent has a wide meaning that provides attribute which is permanent and essential and considered as an inalienable and inseparable part. Therefore, the court in this doctrine consists of inherent power which are inalienable and they exercise it in order to provide fairness and justice to both the parties in a suit.
Thus, the courts have inherent power under section 151 to stay a pending suit in order to provide complete justice to parties, even if the provisions enshrined in section 10 do not strictly apply to the case. Therefore, courts can also entertain different suits in pending litigation where the subject matter or the cause of action is substantially the same.
In the case of Bokaro and Ramgur Ltd. v. State of Bihar and Another, it was observed that “the courts can exercise their inherent powers while deciding the matter. The court in the present case used its power and consolidate different issues having the same matter.”
In Escorts Construction Equipments Ltd. v. Action Construction Equipments Ltd., the defendant approached the court to stay the suit under section 10 of CPC, on the ground that the issue is already pending before the court of Jamshedpur. The petitioner stated that the defendant has challenged the jurisdiction of Jamshedpur court in the same suit and hence, the suit can only be filed if objection challenging the jurisdiction was withdrawn in Jamshedpur court.
The court held that “there are certain essential conditions enshrined under section 10 must be fulfilled and observed that there is nothing to show the effect that defendant should not question the competency of court in a previously instituted suit. Further, the plaintiff in their defense in that matter has not stated that the Jamshedpur court is competent. Therefore, the court granted relief to the defendant under section 10 of CPC.”
In Dees Piston v. State Bank of India, it was held that “when a matter is pending before the competent court of law, the National Commission has no power to entertain a petition in respect of an identical subject matter under Consumer Protection Act.”
In Anurag and Co. and Anr. V. Additional District Judge and others, the court held that “the consolidation of suits is considered in order to facilitate the justice and fairness to both the parties under section 151 of the Code. It also protects the party from multiplicity of cases, delays and frivolous litigation. The parties are also relieved from presenting the same evidence at two different places.”
In Indian Bank v. Maharashtra State Cop. Marketing Federation Ltd., the court held that “where the matter is pending before the competent court and the subject matter is directly and substantially is same in a previously instituted suit between the same parties then the Civil Court should not proceed with the trial of the suit in order to grant the relief sought.”
The Distinction between “Res Subjudice” and “Res Judicata”
|Res Subjudice||Res Judicata|
|Section 10 of the CPC deals with the doctrine of Res Subjudice.||Section 11 of the CPC deal with the doctrine of Res Judicata.|
|Res Subjudice applies in cases where suit is pending before the court.||Res Judicata applies where the matter is decided or adjudicated.|
|It generally bars trial of a suit which is pending before the court of law in the previously instituted suit.||It bars the trial of a suit which is already decided in a former suit before the court of law.|
|It is necessary under this doctrine that previously instituted suit must be pending in the same court in which subsequent suit was brought or in a different jurisdiction where court of law is competent to pass an order.||There is no requirement of such conditions under this doctrine.|
With the increasing number of frivolous and repetitive suits in the Indian judiciary, it is necessary to ‘strictly’ implement the doctrine of ‘Res Subjudice.’ The main objective of this doctrine is to avoid the multiplicity of suits and unnecessary delays in providing justice to both parties. Thus, it helps parties to avoid the unnecessary filing of the same evidence in different courts. The doctrine also helps in reducing conflict of decisions between the two competent courts and minimizes the waste of resources of courts. Therefore, this doctrine is significant in the Code of Civil Procedure to fasten the justice delivery system and reduce the workload of overburdened Indian courts. However, it is necessary that rigour application of this doctrine should not end the “substance” of justice.
 Section 10 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908- “No Court to proceed with trail of any suit in which the matter in issue, is also directly and substantially in issue. In 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 same or any other Court, in India, having jurisdiction to grant relief claimed. Explanation: The pendency of a suit in a Foreign Court doesn’t preclude the Courts in India from, trying a suit founded on same cause of action.”
Pandurang v. Ramchandra v. Shantibai Ramchandra, AIR 1989 SC 2240.
 Sakshi Raje, ‘Doctrine of Res Sub-judice’  Law Times Journal [Accessed on 5 July 2020]. Available from: http://lawtimesjournal.in/doctrine-of-res-sub-judice/
SennajiKapuechand v. PannajiDevachand, AIR 1922 Bom 276.
 Diva Rai, ‘Res Sub-Judice under CPC: Nature, Scope and Objective’  Ipleaders Blog [Accessed on 6 July 2020]. Available from: https://blog.ipleaders.in/res-sub-judice-under-cpc-nature-scope-and-objective/
 SPA Annamalay Chetty v. BA Thornlill, AIR 1931 PC 263.
AIR 1984 Ori 209.
Harshdeep Singh Bedi, ‘Res Sub Judice and Res Judicata’  Legal Bites Journal [Accessed on 5 July 2020]. Available from: https://www.legalbites.in/res-sub-judice-res-judicata/
Civil Revision No. 998 of 2011.
Isha Malik and Rashmita Sunkara, ‘The rule of res Subjudice: An analysis of Section 10 of the CPC’  Jindal Global Law School [Accessed on 5 July 2020]. Available from: https://cpcdecoded.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/the-rule-of-res-sub-judice-an-analysis-of-section-10-of-the-cpc/
Section 151 of Code of Civil Procedure, 1908- “Nothing in this code shall be deemed to limit or otherwise affect the inherent powers of the court to make such orders as may be necessary for the ends of the justice or to prevent abuse of the process of the court.”
 Ram v. Devidayal, AIR 1954 Bom. 176.
AIR 1963 SC 516.
 P.P. Gupta v. East Asiatic Co., AIR 1960 ALL 184.
IA No. 4638/98.
O.P. No. 18 of 1989.
AIR 2006 Raj 119.
AIR 1998 SC 1952