IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


20th June, 2024 Polity


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Picture Courtesy: https://www.complybook.com/blog/doctrine-of-res-judicata

Context: The Supreme Court recently emphasized that the principle of Res Judicata may not be strictly applied in situations where public interest is at stake.

About the Principle of Res Judicata

  • The principle of Res Judicata, which is Latin for "a matter already judged," is a fundamental legal doctrine that promotes finality and certainty in legal proceedings.
  • It prevents the same parties from litigating the same issue multiple times, once a final judgment has been reached on that issue by a court of competent jurisdiction.

Res Judicata serves several important purposes in the legal system:

  • Finality and Judicial Economy: By preventing repeated litigation of the same issue, Res Judicata promotes the finality of judgments. This ensures that once a matter is decided, parties cannot continually challenge the decision, thereby conserving judicial resources and avoiding unnecessary litigation.
  • Prevention of Abuse of Legal Process: Res Judicata prevents parties from re-litigating issues that have already been conclusively determined. This prevents the abuse of the legal process by parties attempting to obtain a different outcome through repeated lawsuits.
  • Consistency and Certainty in Legal Outcomes: It promotes consistency and certainty in legal outcomes by ensuring that legal disputes are resolved definitively. This contributes to the stability of the legal system and enhances public confidence in the judiciary.

Components of Res Judicata

  • Claim Preclusion (Bar): This principle prevents the same parties from re-litigating the same cause of action that has been finally adjudicated. It applies when:
    • The same parties or their privies are involved in both lawsuits.
    • The same cause of action is involved in both lawsuits, meaning the facts and legal issues are substantially identical.
  • Issue Preclusion (Collateral Estoppel): This principle prevents the re-litigation of specific issues that have been actually and necessarily determined in a prior lawsuit between the same parties. Issue Preclusion applies when:
    • The issue in the current lawsuit is identical to an issue litigated and determined in the prior lawsuit.
    • The issue was decided in the prior lawsuit by a court of competent jurisdiction.
    • The determination of the issue was necessary to the judgment in the prior lawsuit.

Exceptions to Res Judicata

  • Mistake or Fraud: Res Judicata may not apply if the prior judgment was obtained through fraud, collusion, or clear mistake.
  • Changed Circumstances: If there are significant changes in circumstances or new evidence emerges that could not have been discovered earlier, courts may reconsider a matter despite a prior judgment.
  • Public Interest: In cases involving matters of significant public interest or where there are issues of constitutional rights, courts may be more flexible in applying Res Judicata to ensure justice.


  • Res Judicata is a foundation of the legal system that promotes judicial efficiency and finality. It aims to strike a balance between the need for finality in legal decisions and the fair resolution of disputes, ensuring that parties are not unfairly burdened with repeated litigation on the same issues


live law



Q. Which of the following statements accurately describes the principle of Res Judicata?

A) It restricts its application solely to criminal cases.

B) It ensures that issues already decided cannot be re-litigated.

C) Its relevance is limited to cases heard in appellate courts.

D) It applies exclusively to decisions made in administrative matters.

Answer: B