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Analysis Of Provision Established In Case: Lal Chand (Dead) By L.Rs. v/s Radha Kishan

The following essay attempts to analyze the code of civil procedure elements underlined and applied by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in its decision in Lal Chand (Dead) by Lrs. and Ors. vs. Radha Krishan. Section 11 of the Civil Procedure Code, which enshrines the idea of res judicata, is essentially appropriate to the facts of the case.

The principle means thing has been judged, which means that the suit before the court has previously been settled by another court between the same parties to the suit. Section 11 prohibits a court from asserting its jurisdiction under Section 9 of the code to take cases that are already decided or Res Judicated.

In this analysis, the concept of res judicata is broken down in its essence using case-based and critical analysis and tracing contemporary advancements and criticism of the aforementioned doctrine. The application of jurisdiction by civil courts and the execution of Section 11 are also examined. The principles established under Order 41 Rule 4 would also be analyzed.

Brief facts of the case:
Respondent filed a suit for seeking eviction notice against four persons and the appellant, who resided there as sub-tenants. Responded obtained a decree in his favour, then he applied for approval from the competent authority to carry out the decree, as provided under Section 19 of the Slum Areas (Improvement and Clearance) Act,[1] permission for the same was granted but only concerning some part of place. Even after seeking the possession of some parts of place, respondent again filed an appeal giving rise to a new round of litigation to take full possession of premises. Hence, lead the current appeal.

Analysis of three concepts of CPC arose in the case:
  1. Whether the Suit precluded by the Res Judicata principle?
    Ne lites sint immortals dum litantes sunt mortals- means that since the litigants are mortal, let litigation not continue forever. The doctrinal principle of Res Judicata is based on this Latin maxim and means that once a suit is decreed by court, then the same cause of action cannot be filed through fresh litigation between the same parties.

    Section 11[2] provides for Res judicata. This principle may not apply to the suit expressly. In those cases, the court has the power to apply its essence to conclude the litigation.[3]
    To attract section 11, certain essential ingredients must be fulfilled:
    • Issue:
      the matter in the earlier proceedings ruled out by the court of competent jurisdiction shall be considered to be final, and a subsequent suit between the same parties cannot be executed again.
       
    • Same Parties to the Suit:
      to attract this principle, it is necessary that a subsequent suit is to be filled between the same parties, whose earlier suit has been decreed. However, each party doesn't need to be common to litigation.[4]
       
    • Same Title:
      The preceding suit should have been litigated under the same title as the following suit.
       
    • By Competent Court:
      The preceding suit has to be decreed by the court having competent jurisdiction. To rely on a court decision as res judicata, the judicial body issuing the decree must have had adequate jurisdiction over the cause or issue and over the parties to do so.[5]
    Therefore, in the present case, SC held that the second litigation was restricted under the principle of res judicata. Because the competent authority as under section 20 of Act[6] allowed the decree in favour of respondent regarding the possession of the ground floor of the premises.

    Hence, filling an appeal on the same issue and same parties is barred, and the court has the authority to dispose of a new round of litigation by applying res judicata. Hence, the Court explicitly stated that as per section 11, it is not exhaustive, and the scope of res judictata can be extended to suits that do not fall exactly within the said words of law.
     
  2. Whether the Court is under competent Jurisdiction to hear the case?
    Section 9[7] of the code provides provisions regarding the jurisdiction of civil courts. It states that the court has jurisdiction to hear all suits having civil nature, except those whose cognizance has been barred either expressly or impliedly. The phrase suits of civil nature means that the suits cover persons' private rights/obligations. For example- suits having issues regarding caste are not civil suits.

    The term civil nature has vast scope as of civil proceedings. It means that a suit will be considered civil nature if the principal issue concerns the determination of civil rights and its enforcement. Whether the suit is civil or not does not concern the party to suit; instead, it is determined based on the subject matter of suit.[8]

    There are some following examples of suits of civil nature:
    • Related to rights of property;
    • Rights related to shares in offerings;
    • Related to specific relief
    • Hereditary offices; etc.
    Hence, it can be implied from section 9 that courts have authority to try cases concerning civil nature. However, there is a restriction imposed on courts to try any matter of civil nature, having jurisdiction, which has been barred expressly or impliedly. It means that any subject matter having a separate law of stature or the code itself restricts and may not be tried by Civil courts.[9]

    Whereas this exclusion of inherent jurisdiction has to be seen and considered from the favour of civil courts, and the provision of exclusion of jurisdiction shall be strictly construed.[10] Consumer Forums is the authority that has jurisdiction over the suits of consumer dispute; though the case is civil, the civil courts are barred from entertaining those suits.

    Therefore, the said principle of restricting civil court's jurisdiction has been applied in the present case. Section 19 and 37 of Slum Clearance Act[11] explicitly bars the jurisdiction of civil courts to hear and try the cases, as it has been excluded expressly by the said law of statute. Hence, in the present case, civil court has no competent jurisdiction to entertain this suit.
     
  3. Whether the abatement filed against the eviction decree due to death of one of the tenants is justified or not?
    CPC, under Order 22, deals with the devolution or creation of interest during the pendency of suits or appeals.[12] There are certain instances where devolution, creation, or interest can arise, and one of them is death of a party to the suit or appeal.[13]

    Where the only defendant/plaintiff to the suit dies, and if the right to sue has a standpoint to live, then it can be continued by the legal heirs of the deceased, and hence the suit will not be abated. However, where there is no right to sue, the suit will abate (end).

    Where there are several defendants/plaintiffs and one of them dies, then the right to sue is living on the part of the other remaining defendants/plaintiff or when the only surviving defendant/plaintiff dies.

    The right to sue still continues; by filing an application before court by the legal heirs of the deceased person, can ask to make them party to suit.[14] The court, based on application, can do so. If the application is not made within ninety days (limitation period), the suit will end against the deceased person—the "right to sue" means where the cause of action of the suit survives.

    As a general rule, right to sue/personal action dies with the person, provided under legal maxim- actio personalis moritur cum persona.[15] However, this principle applies in both cases of appeal and pendency of the suit where the plaintiff in between the proceedings. This principle does not apply to writ petitions[16] and execution proceedings[17] or of their revisions. An appeal or representative suit does not end or abate if any plaintiff/defendants die among several of them. The rest of the plaintiff/defendant has the right to continue the appeal and may continue the proceedings.[18]

General Rule:
Where there is more than one plaintiff/defendant to an appeal, then, in that case, the appellate court has the power to adjudicate the matter only in favour of the parties by either reversing or varying to the decree passed by trial court.

To this principle laid down under CPC, Order 41, Rule 4 is an exception to general rule. Underlines that either of various plaintiffs/defendants may get a reversal of the 'full decree' where it proceeds on grounds common by all. Hence, in case any of the plaintiff or defendant dies, and the legal heir has no right to inherit the issue, in that case, there is no restriction on rest of the plaintiff/defendants to pursue a reversal of decree, even in deceased plaintiff/defendant's favour.

Therefore, in the present case at hand, the appeal suit was filed against the Deceased Lal Chand, Kesho Ram, and Jhangi Ram, who were the defendants in the appeal and were aggrieved by the decree passed. Therefore, as per Order 22 and Order 41 Rule 4 of the code other than Lal Chand (deceased), Kesho ram and Jhangi Ram had their right to sue and continue the proceedings to seek protection under Slum Clearance Act.

Also, regarding the issue raised by Radha Krishna that the right to sue dies with Lal Chand and the right to sue does not exist with his legal heirs. Hence, in the present case, other defendants can continue with the proceedings; however, the legal heirs of Lal Chand had no right to sue as the cause of action was personal to that of the deceased.

Recent developments:
The principle of res judicata has been adopted universally by British Courts by naming it as estoppel of records and also by the United States of America. The said principle has been expanding with time and the needs of the cases. In India, courts have also said that this principle mentioned under Section 11 of the code is not exhaustive; rather, it is illustrative and has a scope of interpretation and can extend to the suits, which expressly does not attract this section.

The courts have inferred alteration on the applicability of section 11 in various instances like; in the case of Gangai Vinayagar Temple v. Meenakshi Ammal,[19] the court stated that in the absence of rule like res judicata, there would be no end to litigations and parties to the suit will be under a lot of trouble and expense.

In Union of India v. Major S.P. Sharma,[20] the issue was whether the newly discovered re-investigated fact may have served as a basis for appeal in the first round of litigation. The Court clarified it could, but it cannot reopen the same matter in a new round of litigation. SC underlined that the outcome of a case that has reached finality amongst parties is not open to question in supplementary processes or subsequent additional litigation because doing so would cause confusion and disorder. The finality of processes would lose meaning.
The courts, through different approaches, have applied this principle to maintain its importance and provide justice as required by law.

Conclusion
Based on the above analysis, Section 11, section 9, Order 22, and Order 41 Rule 4 were not applied correctly, as the high court's decision was not considered correct by the Supreme Court, as before reaching the final appeal, the litigation was judged by seven different authorities. None of them took cognizance of the applicable provisions provided under CPC. Application of these mentioned provisions could have made the work of court easier on them and the parties to the suit.

Order 22 provides for instances where a person dies during the suit is pending and so on. In the present case also Lal Chand, the appellant died and left no cause of action for his legal heirs, and his legal heirs had no right to continue the suit. However, other parties to the suit had the right to continue the suit as they had a cause of action.

If I talk about Res judicata, it is evident from the above analysis that this principle has a vast spectrum and can be applied either expressly or even impliedly. The interpretation of the scope of this principle has been done by court through various judgments. As it is now not only based on providing justice to any particular. Although it is also founded on the pillars of equity, justice, and good conscience, and hence, any matter taken into consideration shall be judged on these pillars.

Suggestions:
Constructive res judicata shall be circumvent as much as possible, especially when it comes to constitutional gravity and writ judgments should not be construed to exclude a subsequent regular suit. The notion of constructive res judicata should be used instead of it.

End-Notes:
  1. The Slum Clearance Act, 1956, S. 19 and S. 37.
  2. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1963, S. 11.
  3. Satya Dhan Ghosha v. Deorajin Debi, (1960) 3 S.C.R 510 (India).
  4. Pandit Ishwardas v. State of Madhya Pradesh, (1977) 4 S.C.C. 163 (India).
  5. Sayyed Ali v. A.P. Wakf Board, (1998) 2 SCC 642 (India).
  6. The Slum Clearance Act, 1956, S. 20.
  7. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1963, S. 9.
  8. P.M.A. Metropolitan v. Moran Mar Marthoma, AIR 1995 SC 2001 (India).
  9. Umrao Singh v. Bhagwati Singh, AIR 1956 SC 15 (India).
  10. Abdul Waheed Khan v. Bhawani, AIR 1966 SC 1718 (India).
  11. Supra Note 1.
  12. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1963, Order 22 Rule 11.
  13. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1963, Order 22 Rule 1-6, 10-A.
  14. The Code of Civil Procedure, 1963, Order 22 Rule 2.
  15. Shri Krishna Singh v. Mathura Ahir, AIR 1980 SC 707 (India).
  16. Ghantesher v. Madan Mohan, AIR 1997 SC 471 (India).
  17. Puran Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1996 SC 1992 (India).
  18. Charan Singh v. Darshan Singh, AIR 1975 SC 371 (India).
  19. Gangai Vinayagar Temple v. Meenakshi Ammal, (2009) 9 S.C.C 757 (India).
  20. Union of India v. Major S.P. Sharma (2016) 6 S.C.C. 351 (India).

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