Applicability of Res Judicata between Co-Defendants: Supreme Court Explains

By Kanvi Gupta

The Supreme Court examined the applicability of res judicata between the Co- defendants while passing the judgement last week. The court while observing said that the requisite conditions to apply the principle of res judicata between Co- defendants are:

  • There must be conflict of interest between the defendants concerned
  • It must be necessary for court to decide on such conflicts in order to give plaintiff the relief he claims from court
  • The question between defendants must have been finally decided

The bench of two judges Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta reiterated that if the subject matter of suit is not same as it was earlier, then the principle of res judicata will not be applicable. For applicability of res judicata, the matter in the former suit must have been alleged by one party and either it is denied or is admitted, expressly or impliedly by the other party.

Legal heirs of Late S.V. Srinivasulu Naidu filed an application before the Special Court, Hyderabad (Tribunal) under Section 8 of the Andhra Pradesh Land Grabbing (Prohibition) Act, 1982, saying that their land is been grabbed by Union of India. The Plaintiff claimed that his vendor, Mr. Shaik Ahmed and then the father of the applicants was the owner in possession of the property and Union of India trespassed to their property. He had sold the property to some people who filed suit against him. In return father filed written statement in which he said that he has no objection to suit. The plaintiff was been declared the title holder. Appeal of Union of India before High Court was dismissed.

Before Supreme Court, Union of India contended that subject matter of the first suit was only 4971.5 sq. yards. Issue was only related to title of plaintiff’s land and not to the entire land given to Union of India. On the other hand, the applicants on the other side contended that the decree in the first suit is in respect of entire property purchased by the predecessor of applicants and though the claim of plaintiff was restricted to the land purchased by him.

Taking note of other evidences on record, court dismissed the petition and said that Union of India are true owners of the property.