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Order XIV Rule 2 CPC - Res Judicata Plea Cannot Be Determined As Preliminary Issue When It Is A Mixed Question Of Fact & Law : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
10 May 2022 6:36 AM GMT
Order XIV Rule 2 CPC - Res Judicata Plea Cannot Be Determined As Preliminary Issue When It Is A Mixed Question Of Fact & Law : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court observed that a plea of res judicata cannot be determined as preliminary issue when it is a mixed question of law and fact.Preliminary issues can be those where no evidence is required and on the basis of reading of the plaint or the applicable law, if the jurisdiction of the Court or the bar to the suit is made out, the Court may decide such issues with the sole objective...

The Supreme Court observed that a plea of res judicata cannot be determined as preliminary issue when it is a mixed question of law and fact.

Preliminary issues can be those where no evidence is required and on the basis of reading of the plaint or the applicable law, if the jurisdiction of the Court or the bar to the suit is made out, the Court may decide such issues with the sole objective for the expeditious decision, the bench comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian said.

In this case, the defendant in a suit filed an application to frame issues under Order XIV Rule 2(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure to treat issues related to principles of Res Judicata and Estoppel as the preliminary issues. The Trial Court dismissed the application. This order was challenged in revision petition under Article 227 of the Constitution of India before the High Court which then ordered the framing of issue of res judicata as preliminary issue.

Relying on Order XIV Rule 2 of the Code, the appellant contended that a Court is mandated to pronounce judgment on all issues, even though the suit can be disposed of on a preliminary issue.

The bench noted that the provisions of Order XIV Rule 2 are part of the procedural law, but the fact remains that such procedural law had been enacted to ensure expeditious disposal of the lis.

"In the event of setting aside of findings on preliminary issue, the possibility of remand can be avoided, as was the language prior to the unamended Order XIV Rule 2. If the issue is a mixed issue of law and fact, or issue of law depends upon the decision of fact, such issue cannot be tried as a preliminary issue. In other words, preliminary issues can be those where no evidence is required and on the basis of reading of the plaint or the applicable law, if the jurisdiction of the Court or the bar to the suit is made out, the Court may decide such issues with the sole objective for the expeditious decision. Thus, if the Court lacks jurisdiction or there is a statutory bar, such issue is required to be decided in the first instance so that the process of civil court is not abused by the litigants, who may approach the civil court to delay the proceedings on false pretext.", the court said.

The bench therefore held that the direction of the High Court to frame preliminary issue on the issue of res judicata is not desirable to ensure speedy disposal of the lis between parties.

"Order XIV Rule 2 of the Code had salutary object in mind that mandates the Court to pronounce judgments on all issues subject to the provisions of sub-Rule (2). However, in case where the issues of both law and fact arise in the same suit and the Court is of the opinion that the case or any part thereof may be disposed of on an issue of law only, it may try that suit first, if it relates to jurisdiction of the Court or a bar to the suit created 21 by any law for the time being in force. It is only in those circumstances that the findings on other issues can be deferred. It is not disputed that res judicata is a mixed question of law and fact depending upon the pleadings of the parties, the parties to the suit etc. It is not a plea in law alone or which bars the jurisdiction of the Court or is a statutory bar under clause (b) of sub-Rule (2).", the bench said while allowing the appeal.


Case details

Sathyanath vs Sarojamani | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 458 | CA 3680 OF 2022 | 6 May 2022

Coram: Justices Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramanian

Headnotes

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XIV Rule 2 - The plea of res judicata in appropriate cases may be determined as preliminary issue when it is neither a disputed question of fact nor a mixed question of law and fact - Preliminary issues can be those where no evidence is required and on the basis of reading of the plaint or the applicable law, if the jurisdiction of the Court or the bar to the suit is made out, the Court may decide such issues with the sole objective for the expeditious decision. [Referred to Ramesh B. Desai and Ors. v. Bipin Vadilal Mehta and Ors (2006) 5 SCC 638 ] (Para 20, 30)

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XIV Rule 2 , Order XX Rule 5, Order XLI Rules 24 & 25- To avoid the possibility of remanding back the matter after the decision on the preliminary issues, it is mandated for the trial court under Order XIV Rule 2 and Order XX Rule 5, and for the first appellate court in terms of Order XLI Rules 24 and 25 to record findings on all the issues. (Para 33)

Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 ; Order XLI Rules 24 and 25 - If evidence is recorded by the learned Trial Court on all the issues, it would facilitate the first Appellate Court to decide the questions of fact even by reformulating the issues - It is only when the first Appellate Court finds that there is no evidence led by the parties, the first Appellate Court can call upon the parties to lead evidence on such additional issues, either before the Appellate Court or before the Trial Court. (Para 32)




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