Judgements of Court of Justice when relevant

Its an instance of conclusive proof mentioned in section 41 of Indian Evidence Act 1872.
Its an instance of conclusive proof mentioned in section 41 of Indian Evidence Act 1872.
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Relevancy of Judgements (section 40-44)

A judgment is a decision of a court regarding the rights and liabilities of parties in a legal action or proceeding. There are two kinds of judgments: Judgments in rem and Judgments in personam.

  1. Judgement in Rem: A judgment in remis one pronounced upon the status of some particular person or thing and which binds all persons in the world. Thus, a judgment which binds all men, and not only the parties to the suit in which it was passed, and their privies, and that it belongs to positive law are judgments in rem. A judgment in rem is conclusive, not only against the parties to it, but also against the entire world.
    In State of Bihar v. Radha Krishna Singh, AIR 1983 SC 684 case, the Supreme Court observed: “It is well settled that a judgment in rem like judgments passed in probate, insolvency, matrimonial, or guardianship, or other similar proceedings, is admissible in all cases whether such judgments are inter partes or not”
  1. A judgment in personam or inter parties is an ordinary judgment between parties in cases of contract, tort or crime. The rights and liabilities of the parties to the suit are determined in such judgments. This judgment binds only the parties or privies to the suit. It does not bind entire world. A judgment in personam in only conclusive between the parties and privies, and it operates res judicata between the same parties on the same subject- matter. All judgments other than judgment in rem, are judgments in personam or judgments inter parties.
    The general principle of law is that judgments whether previous or subsequent are not relevant in any case or proceeding. Every case has to be decided upon its own facts as they exist between the parties to it and not by reference to the judgments in other cases. A judgment in the criminal trial is not relevant to the civil case except for the purpose of showing the fact of trial and conviction for it.
    Thus, in a suit for damages for damaging the plaintiff’s trees, the fact that the defendant was acquitted on the same charge in a criminal prosecution was not admitted in evidence. For the same reason, a civil judgment is not relevant to a criminal trial though arising out of the same facts.
    For example, a judgment in a civil suit for defamation is not relevant to a criminal prosecution based upon the same defamatory statement. If an action is started against a manufacturer for supplying defective goods and the court holds the manufacturer to be not liable. Subsequently, another person starts an action against the same manufacturer, for supplying the same kind of defective goods.
    The previous judgment is not relevant to the subsequent case. Judgments are, however, relevant facts of great importance. Thus, to the general principle that judgments are not relevant, the Act recognizes a few exceptions (Secs. 40-43).

Previous Judgments Relevant to Bar a Second Suit or Trial (Section 40):
The existence of any judgment, order or decree which by law prevents any Court from taking cognizance of a suit or holding a trial, is a relevant fact when the question is whether such Court ought to take cognizance of such suit or to hold such trial.
Where a dispute is already decided by a competent Court, and court has delivered a judgment, order or decree, and the original or certified copy of it is relevant fact under Section 40 of the Act.  A judgment, order or decree given by a competent court is conclusive evidence hence relevant.
The object of the provision is to avoid multiplicity of the suits and to save the precious time of the Court. In Civil Procedure Code Section 11 provides rule of Res Judicata and in CrPC and constitution it is provided that no one shall be punished for the same offense twice.

Ingredients of Section 40 Indian Evidence Act:

    • There must be a dispute already decided by a competent Court;
    • That Court has delivered a judgment, order or decree after conducting judicial proceedings; and
    • The subject matter must be the same.
      Section 40 applies to a case where the court has jurisdiction to try a suit, but one-party claims that it would not as the suit has already been decided earlier.
      For example: A sues B for the possession of a house, both of whom claim to be separate owners of the house. The suit is decided in favour of B, who is held to be the owner of it. After 5 years, A again files a suit against B alleging to be the owner of the house. B contends that a judgment has been given previously with regard to the same and pleads Section 11 CPC. The previous judgment will be admissible.
      When the previous acquittal did not operate to bar the second trial of the accused and where both trials were separate and the incidents were viewed as distinct transactions and the offences were different thus relating to different charges, neither evidence on record nor acquittal is relevant in the second case.A judgment in rem under this section is conclusive in a civil as well as in criminal proceeding. Both the proceedings may run simultaneously. Judgments in personam bind the parties and their representatives-in interest and not relevant under s. 41, in any subsequent proceeding.

Relevancy of certain judgements in Probate etc. Jurisdiction (Section 41):

A final judgment, order or decree of a competent Court, in the exercise of probate, matrimonial, admiralty or insolvency jurisdiction, which confers upon or takes away from any person any legal character, or which declares any person to be entitled to any such character, or to be entitled to any specific thing, not as against any specified person but absolutely, is relevant when the existence of any such legal character, or the title of any such person to any such thing, is relevant.

Such judgment, order or decree is conclusive proof ––

  • That any legal character which it confers accrued at the time when such judgment, order or decree came into operation;
  • That any legal character, to which it declares any such person to be entitled, accrued to that person at the time when such judgment order or decree declares it to have accrued to that person;
  • That any legal character which it takes away from any such person ceased at the time from which such judgment, order or decree declared that it had ceased or should cease; and
  • That anything to which it declares any person to be so entitled was the property of that person at the time from which such judgment, order or decree declares that it had been or should be his property.
    Meaning of ‘Final Judgment: The word “Final’ is used to distinguish it from interlocutory and does not mean non-appealable.
    Meaning of Competent Court’: It includes foreign court also. The expression ‘competent court’ means court of any country which is competent to pass a Judgment in rem. It has to be a court which has Jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter.
    Probate Court: The grant of probate is a method prescribed by law for establishing a will. The courts in India exercise Probate jurisdiction under the Indian Succession Act, 1925. The grant of probate is conclusive proof of the title of the execution and genuineness of the will.
    Matrimonial Court: The Courts in India are invested with matrimonial jurisdiction under various special enactments viz. Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, Special Marriage Act, 1954, Christian Marriage Act etc.
    Admiralty Jurisdiction: This jurisdiction is conferred on the High Court in India by their respective Letters Patent Act and on the civil court by the Admiralty Act, 1897. The judgment of the Admiralty court is conclusive against the whole world.
    Insolvency Court: It is exercised by High courts by their respective Letters Patent Act and civil courts under the Provincial Insolvency Act, 1920.
    Ingredients of Section 41 IEA:
    • There must be a dispute already decided by a competent Court;
    • The judgment must be related to the matter related to probate, matrimonial, admiralty, insolvency.
    • That Court has delivered a judgment, order or decree after conducting judicial proceedings;
    • The judgment must confer upon or take away from any person any legal character; or declare any person to be entitled to any such character; or to be titled to any specific thing, not as against any specified person, but absolutely; and Such a judgment is a conclusive proof.

Relevancy and Effect of Judgments, Orders or Decrees, Other Than Those Mentioned in Section 41:

Judgments, orders or decrees other than those mentioned in section 41, are relevant if they relate to matters of a public nature relevant to the enquiry; but such judgments, orders or decrees are not conclusive proof of that which they state.

Illustration:A sues B for trespass on his land. B alleges the existence of a public right of way over the land, which A denies.The existence of a decree in favour of the defendant, in a suit by A against C for a trespass on the same land in which C alleged the existence of the same right of way, is relevant, but it is not conclusive proof that the right of way exists.

Ingredients of Section 42:

  • Judgment is not related to matter related to mention in Section 41 i.e., not related to probate, matrimonial, admiralty, insolvency; and
  • Judgment relates to the matter of public nature, whether the dispute between the two same parties or not.
  • Matters of public nature include public customs, rights of preemptio9n, way, fisheries, ferry, drawing water from a well or pond and the matter concerning the public at large.

Judgments, etc., Other Than Those Mentioned in Sections 40 to 42, When Relevant (Section 43):

Judgments, orders or decrees, other than those mentioned in sections 40, 41 and 42, are irrelevant, unless the existence of such judgment, order or decree, is a fact in issue, or is relevant under some other provisions of this Act.


  1. A and B separately sue C for a libel which reflects upon each of them. C in each case says, that the matter alleged to be libellous is true, and the circumstances are such that it is probably true in each case, or in neither. A obtains a decree against C for damages on the ground that C failed to make out his justification. The fact is irrelevant as between B and C.
  2. A prosecutes B for adultery with C, A’s wife. B denies that C is A’s wife, but the court convicts B of adultery. Afterwards, C is prosecuted for bigamy in marrying B during A’s lifetime. C says that she never was A’s wife. The judgment against B is irrelevant as against C.
  3. A prosecutes B for stealing a cow from him, B, is convicted. A afterwards sues C for the cow, which B had sold to him before his conviction. As between A and C, the judgment against B is irrelevant.
  4. A has obtained a decree for the possession of land against B, C, B’s son, murders A in consequence. The existence of the judgment is relevant, as showing motive for a crime.
  5. A is charged with theft and with having been previously convicted of theft. The previous conviction is relevant as a fact in issue.
  6. A is tried for the murder of B. The fact that B prosecuted A for libel and that A was convicted and sentenced is relevant under section 8 as showing the motive for the fact in issue.

Fraud or Collusion in Obtaining Judgment, or Incompetency of Court, May be Proved(Section 44):

Any party to a suit or other proceeding may show that any judgment, order or decree which is relevant under section 40, 41 or 42 and which has been proved by the adverse party, was delivered by a Court not competent to deliver it, or was obtained by fraud or collusion.

Section 44 enables a party otherwise bound by a previous adjudication to show that it was not final or binding because it is vitiated by fraud. Sec. 44 gives an opportunity to the adverse party to raise questions that the judgment obtained under secs. 40, 41 and 42 by the first party in the previous suit or proceeding on the grounds mentioned in sec. 44. Sec. 44 is not applicable to sec. 43.

For Example: though the genuineness of the will cannot be challenged once the probate is issued under section 41, but the judgment can be challenged that it was obtained by fraud or collusion.

The Competency on the part of court means lack of jurisdiction. Thus, if any court without jurisdiction gives judgment on any matter it is null and void. It cannot be used as evidence as relevant.



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