21 Sep 2023 12:56 PM GMT
Recently, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, reiterated the established law on the doctrine of res judicata that has been recognized by this Court in several judgments. The Court opined:“The doctrine itself is based on public policy flowing from the age-old legal maxim interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium which means that in the interest of the State there should be an end to...
Recently, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, reiterated the established law on the doctrine of res judicata that has been recognized by this Court in several judgments. The Court opined:
“The doctrine itself is based on public policy flowing from the age-old legal maxim interest reipublicae ut sit finis litium which means that in the interest of the State there should be an end to litigation and no party ought to be vexed twice in a litigation for one and the same cause”
The Bench comprising Justices J.K. Maheshwari and K.V. Viswanathan, made these observations while hearing a claim of one Samir Kumar Majumder (appellant), who was denied absorption as an Assistant Teacher in the Higher Secondary Section by the Calcutta High Court.
First Round of Litigation
It is the case of the appellant that he was initially appointed as a Substitute Teacher on 05.12.1989. According to him, artificial breaks were created in his service by terminating him on the eve of the school vacations and thereafter reappointing him. He was again terminated on 22.09.1990, on the eve of Puja Holidays. However, he was re-engaged on 01.11.1990.
When the matter stood thus, the appellant, fearing further creation of artificial breaks filed an application before the Central Administrative Tribunal (Tribunal) Guwahati Bench. Therein, he prayed for setting aside of the letters of termination and also prayed for regularization of his service and for salary during the period of breaks.
Ultimately, the Tribunal had dismissed his application and the matter was carried to the Supreme Court. The Apex Court disposed off his matter observing that he may be considered for regular selection by giving relaxation in that regard.
Accordingly, respondent-authorities acted in terms of the true purport of the order. They subjected the appellant also to the process of screening by the Screening Committee and appointed him as Primary Teacher (Bengali Medium) in the Railway Higher Secondary School against an existing vacancy.
However, aggrieved by the same, appellant approached the tribunal. The appellant’s grievance was that he should have been absorbed as Assistant Teacher since he worked as a substitute Assistant Teacher and taught Classes XI and XII.
The tribunal dismissed appellant’s application and the same was upheld by the High Court. Thus, the present case.
After hearing the arguments of both parties, the Court was of the view that the appellant’s claim for absorption as Assistant Teacher in the Higher Secondary Section is not tenable. It observed that the appellant was appointed as a substitute teacher in the payscale of a primary teacher. In fact, when he filed the first round of proceedings, no plea was raised that he worked as an Assistant Teacher in the Higher Secondary Section. Even before the Tribunal, the argument was only about regularization. Before this Court too, no claim for regularization as Assistant Teacher in the Higher Secondary Section was made.
The Screening Committee having considered him, pursuant to the orders of this Court, had thought it fit to absorb him only as a primary teacher; the Screening Committee itself was pursuant to the orders of this Court; the records of his appointment as a substitute teacher admittedly show that he was only appointed as a substitute primary teacher; it is on the completion of three months as substitute primary teacher that he acquired temporary status and on absorption now he became entitled to certain benefits.
Law on Constructive Res Judicata:
Moving forward, the Court also tested appellant’s case from the lens of res judicata. At the outset, the Court produced findings of Sir James Wigram with respect to the said principle in Henderson vs. Henderson, (1843) 3 Hare, 100. It reads as:
“In trying this question I believe I state the rule of the Court correctly when I say that, where a given matter becomes the subject of litigation in, and of adjudication by, a Court of competent jurisdiction, the Court requires the parties to that litigation to bring forward their whole case, and will not (except under special circumstances) permit the same parties to open the same subject of litigation in respect of matter which might have been brought forward as part of the subject in contest, but which was not brought forward, only because they have, from negligence, inadvertence, or even accident, omitted part of their case. The plea of res judicata applies, except in special cases, not only to points upon which the Court was actually required by the parties to form an opinion and pronounce a judgment, but to every point which properly belonged to the subject of litigation, and which the parties, exercising reasonable diligence, might have brought forward at the time. ….”
In this backdrop, the Court observed that in the earlier round of proceedings culminating in the order of this Court dated 15.02.1996, this issue was never raised and thus, categorically held that appellant’s claim for absorption as an assistant teacher in the Higher Secondary Section is clearly barred by constructive res judicata.
Case Title: Samir Kumar Majumder v. The Union of India
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 806; 2023INSC836
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