Whether on a pure issue of law, the principles of “Res Judicata” applies or not?
Looking to the views taken by Hon’ble Apex Court regarding the Issue, since 1952, one may find divergence of opinion transpires from those decisions:
Hon’ble Apex Court has held in case of MOHANLAL GOENKA V/S. BENOY KISHNA MUKHERJEE (1953 AIR(SC) 65) that………..
“There is ample authority for the proposition that even an erroneous decision on a question of law operates as ‘res judicata’ between the parties to it. The correctness or otherwise of a judicial decision has no bearing upon the question whether or not it operates as ‘res judicata’. A decision in the previous execution case between the parties that the matter was not within the competence of the executing court even though erroneous is binding on the Parties.” (PARA-23)
It has been held by Hon’ble Apex Court in case of M L SETHI V/S R P KAPUR (1972 (2)SCC 427) that………
“It is a bit difficult to understand how an erroneous decision on a question of limitation or res judicata would oust the jurisdiction of the Court in the primitive sense of the term and render the decision or a decree embodying the decision a nullity liable to collateral attack.” (PARA-1 1)
In 1989, a Division Bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court in case of SUPREME COURT EMPLOYEES WELFARE ASSOCIATION V/S UNION OF INDIA (1989 (4) SCC 187) has held that………..
‘A decision on an abstract question of law unrelated to facts which give rise to a right, cannot operate as res judicata — A decision on the question of jurisdiction, cannot be res judicata in subsequent suit or proceedings, but if the question of law is related to the facts in issue, an erroneous decision on such a question of law may operate as res judicata in a subsequent suit between the suit parties.”
It has been held by Hon’ble Apex Court in case of ISABELLA JOHNSON V/S M ASUSAI (1991 (1) SCC 494) that…
“In our opinion a court which has no jurisdiction in law cannot be conferred with the jurisdiction by applying principles of res judicata. It is well settled that there can be no estoppel on a pure question of law and in this case the question of jurisdiction is a pure question of law,” (PARA-6)