Judgment Of Courts Of Justice When Relevant Under Law of Evidence

By | October 2, 2018
Rule of Law

Section 40 to 44 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 lays down provision relating to judgments of the Court of Justice, when relevant. Sections 40 to 43 deal with the subject of relevancy of judgments. Judgments are admissible as res judicata under section 40 and as relating to matters of public nature under section 42. Judgments other than those mention in sections 40, 41 and 42 may be relevant under section 43 if their existence is a fact in issue or is relevant under some other provision. Section 44 lays down not only a rule of law relating to evidence, but also a rule of procedure. All the abovementioned sections have been discussed below.

PREVIOUS JUDGMENTS RELEVANT TO BAR A SECOND SUIT OR TRIAL (SECTION- 40):

A judgment which has the effect of res judicata is relevant in every case in which it has the effect. Section 40 incorporates this principle. The principle is that where a cause of action has been agitated before court of law between certain parties and the case has been decided, then new action can be brought on the same cause of action and between the same parties, and if the plaintiff proposes to trouble the defendant again with the same cause of action, the earlier judgment is complete bar. Thus the earlier judgment will be relevant because it will have the effect of preventing the court from taking cognizance of the case.

In P.G. Eshwarappa v. M. Rudrappa [(1996) 6 S.C.C. 96], it was held that the principles of estoppel or res judicata do not apply when they would contravene some statutory direction or prohibition. This is something which cannot be overridden or defeated by a previous judgment between the parties.

RELEVANCIES OF CERTAIN JUDGMENTS IN PROBATE etc. JURISDICTION (SECTION- 41):

According to B. Meenakshi Sundaram v. Kuttimalu (I.L.R. 1958 Ker. 9), a judgment in rem has been defined to be a judgment of a court of competent jurisdiction determining the status of a person or thing, or the disposition of a thing (as distinct from a particular interest in it) of a party of the litigation. It is a kind of declaration about the status of a person e.g., that he is an insolvent, and is effective against everybody whether he was a party to the proceeding or not. That is why it will be relevant in every case or proceeding in which the solvency of person is in question.

According to the section, a judgment in rem dealing with the status or legal character of a person can be pronounced only by the courts exercising the following kinds of jurisdiction:

  • PROBATE JURISDICTION
  • MATRIMONIAL JURISDICTION
  • ADMIRALTY JURISDICTION
  • INSOLVENCY JURISDICTION

It is essential for a judgment under section 41 to be regarded as a judgment in rem that it should either confer upon or take away from any person any legal character or it should declare the person to be entitled to any such character, or to be entitled to any specific person, but absolutely. The judgment is a conclusive proof of the fact that the legal character which it confers accrued to the person concerned from the date on which the judgment came into operation. Where the judgment declares a person to be entitled to legal character, it is conclusive of the fact that the legal character accrued to the person at the time when the judgment came into operation.

RELEVANCY AND EFFECT OF JUDGMENTS, ORDERS OR DECREES OTHER THAN THOSE MENTIONED IN SECTION 41 (SECTION- 42):

A judgment upon a matter of public nature, for example, a determination that a particular street is a public highway, is relevant in every case proceeding in which that aspect of the property is again question.

Judgments on such matters are relevant to every case or proceeding in which the matter is again in question, but shall not be conclusive of the matter. It means that whatever any such judgment is cited, the party affected by it may lead evidence to the contrary and show that not all the information was presented before the court when the judgment was pronounced. For example, a person is prosecuted for trespass upon a land and the complaint is dismissed, the court holding that public has a right of way over the same land. Subsequently, the landlord prosecutes another person for trespass over the same land. The earlier judgment will definitely be relevant, but will not be conclusive of the fact that the right of way exists. This will enable the landlord to produce further evidence in support of his case.

JUDGMENTS, etc. OTHER THAN THOSE MENTIONED IN SECTION 40 TO 42, WHEN RELEVANT (SECTION- 43):

Evidence can be given of a judgment when the existence of the judgment is itself a fact in issue or is fact otherwise relevant to the case. If, for example, a person is murdered in consequence of a judgment, the judgment being a cause or motive of the murder will be a relevant fact under section 7 and 8. Section 43 deals with this matter.

The illustration appended to the section amply show that the existence of a judgment may become relevant under any of the provisions relating to relevancy running from section 6 to 55. A judgment may, for example, be relevant as showing a state of mind; it may be useful for overthrowing the defence of accident or may, in circumstances, constitute an evidence of character. Where, for example, a person is prosecuted for receiving stolen property with knowledge that it was stolen. A previous judgment convicting him of the same offence will be useful for showing that he had the knowledge of the property in question being stolen. A judgment may become the cause of or constitute the motive for a fact in issue and, therefore, may be relevant for that reason.

In Rumi Dhar v. State of W.B.,(AIR 2009 S.C. 2195), a settlement in a civil proceeding for recovery of a loan was held to be not of matter relevance in a subsequent criminal proceeding involving the same matter.

FRAUD OR COLLUSION IN OBTAINING JUDGMENT, OR INCOMPETENCY OF COURT MAY BE PROVED (SECTION- 44):

The existence of a judgment over a matter which is again in question is a satisfactory piece of evidence, though, of course, nothing is said about its evidentiary value in the Evidence Act. The only thing that the Act provides is that whenever a judgment is relevant by reason of any of the exceptions, its value may be demolished by showing that it was delivered by a court of incompetent jurisdiction or that it was obtained by fraud or collusion. This amounts to an indirect assertion that unless the value of a judgment is so demolished, it is valuable as a piece of evidence.

The value of a judgment can be attacked on three different grounds, namely, that,-

  • The judgment was delivered by a court of incompetent jurisdiction, or
  • It was obtained by collusion, or
  • It was obtained by fraud.

BY-   SAUMYA CHOWDHARY

JAI NARAIN VYAS UNIVERSITY, JODHPUR

SOURCES:

  • LAW OF EVIDENCE BY BATUK LAL
  • LAW OF EVIDENCE BY AVTAAR SINGH
  • SCC ONLINE

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