Sub Judice in Latin means ‘under judgement’. It means that a matter or case is being considered by court. When two or more cases are filed between the same parties on the same subject matter, the competent court has power to stay proceedings.
No Court shall proceed with the trial of any suit which the matter in issue is also directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit between the same parties, same title where suit is pending in the same or any other court in India.[i]
Exception – if a suit is pending with foreign court, the Indian court can hear the same cause.
Illustration: A (House owner) and B (Tenant), A files a suit against B at Court X for neither paying the rent nor leaving the house. Subsequently, B files a suit against A at Court Y for not providing proper maintenance for one year. Can both court conduct trial?
1] There must be two or more suits in which one is the original and then the others are subsequent suits.
2] It should be between the same parties or their representative
3] It should be for same subject matter.
4] It should be with the same title.
5] The court where the suit was filed previously should be competent to grant the relief.
6] Such suit should be pending in the same court or any other court in India.
7] It must be remembered that the institution of the subsequent suit is not ‘barred’ but its ‘trail” only. The final decision of the former suit shall operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit.
The objective of Res Sub Judice is to save the time of two or more courts on the same case and avoid conflict of decrees by two or more different courts on the same case.
The object of the section is to protect a person from the multiplicity of proceedings and to avoid a conflict of decisions. It also protects the litigant people from unnecessary harassment.
Indian Bank v. Maharashtra State Co. Marketing Federation Ltd.[iii]
This case provides that, the civil court should not proceed with the trial of any suit in which the matter in the issue is directly and substantially in issue in a previously instituted suit between the same parties and the court before which the previously instituted suit is pending is competent to grant the relief.
GC Care Centre & Hospital v. OP Care Pvt. Ltd.[iv]
In this case, there was contract between X and Y for the sale of a heart-lung machine. Later, a dispute took place between the two parties due to fault in the performance of the machine. X first filed a suit against Y at court A, demanding recovery of the entire amount paid. Subsequently, Y filed a suit against X at court B demanding Rs.20, 000 as outstanding balance. In X’s suit, Y took the defence that since both the suits are on similar issues, X’s suit should be stayed. However, court B held that since X’s suit is the first suit and the subsequent suit had issues similar to the first suit, it is the subsequent suit that is liable to be stayed, and not the previous one. Therefore, applying the rule of res sub judice, it is only the subsequent suit that has to be stayed.
When the conditions are fulfilled then it is the courts’ duty to stay the suit. The court is empowered to stay the later suit and not the earlier one.
The Doctrine is not applicable
- When the point of issues are distinct and different.[v]
- Where the same issues in common and others are different issues.[vi]
- Where the parties are same, the issues are not same,[vii]
The purpose of the section is to bring finality to the judgment and to avoid contradictory decisions by two different courts, as there is a possibility that in case when matter is simultaneously being decided by different courts of concurrent jurisdiction, the court may come up with different decisions and then it will be difficult to finalize which decision to be abided by.