Previous proceedings would operate as res judicata only in respect of issues of facts and not on issues of pure questions of law

Supreme Court: A bench of Dipak Misra and Shiva Kirti Singh, JJ, while relying upon Mathura Prasad Sarjoo Jaiswal v. Dossibai N.B. Jeejeebhoy, (1970) 1 SCC 613, held that the previous proceedings would operate as res judicata only in respect of issues of facts and not on issues of pure questions of law when the subsequent proceeding is based upon a different cause of action and in respect of different property though between the same parties. The Court further observed that the principle of estoppel operates against parties and not the court and hence nothing comes in the way of a competent court to decide a pure question of law differently if it is so warranted.

In the instant case, it was contended that when, in a petition of 1966, it was already held that the illegitimate sons of a person were not entitled to inherit his property, the court was barred from adjudicating same because the previous judgment would operate as res judicata. Allahabad High Court observed that the previous judgment between the parties was in respect of another subject matter/property, and moreover its finding that illegitimate children of a person are not entitled to inherit his property being finding on issues of law would not operate as res judicata in the subsequent proceedings in respect of other properties. The Court, hence, stating that no equitable principle or estoppel can impede powers of the Court to determine an issue of law correctly in a subsequent suit which relates to another property founded upon a different cause of action though parties may be same, upheld High Court’s reasoning, . [Satyendra Kumar v. Raj Nath Dubey, 2016 SCC OnLine SC 478, 06.05. 2016.]

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