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Report No. 69

III. English Law as to Judgments

8.71. English Law, as to admissibility of judgments.-

In England, in general, a judgment which is not a judgment in rem and winch is between strangers or between a party and a stranger, and which does not relate to questions of public and general interest or raise issues based on contract, admission or acquiescence, is not evidence of the truth of the decision or of its grounds, though there is a limited exception in bankruptcy, administration, divorce and patent cases. This rule was settled long ago in the Duchess of kingston's case1 and elaborated in Natal Land Company's case.2 As regards its existence and legal effect-as distinct from the findings and reasons-even a judgment in personam is evidence.

1. R. v. Kingston (Duchess), 20 Howard ST 355: 168 ER 175.

2. Natal Land Company v. Good, 1868 LR 2: 1889 PC 121.

8.72. Reasons or inadmissibility of judgments.-

This inadmissibility of judgments between strangers, is sometimes attributed to the rule against opinion evidence or the rule against hearsay, but it is usually based on the ground of res inter alios acts alteri noceri non debet. It is unjust that a man should be affected by proceedings in which he could not make defence, cross-examine or appeal.

8.73. In Collector of Gorakhpur v. Palakdhari, ILR 12 All 14, Mahmood J. said-"Now, as I understand the English law, that system of the law of evidence has by itself special technicalities rendered judgments such as those involved in this case inadmissible in evidence for reasons better known to English lawyers who have founded the doctrine than to me who can only claim a slight knowledge of those doctrines. But, however slight that knowledge may be, I know enough of that system to feel sure that it does not permit of the admissibility of the evidence furnished by judicial adjudications except when such previous adjudication operates either as res judicata or relates to a custom or right of a public nature.

Judgments of that character cannot, of course, operate as res judicata in the English system of law or any other unless they are between the same parties or those whom they present. But the question arises as to judgments which are not between the same parties but which represent solemn adjudications by Courts of justice as to the facts in issue in the trials which result in the judgments sought to be produced as evidence in later trials where the same or similar questions arise, but where the absolute identity of the opposing parties is wanting:

"The English law says as to the admissibility of judgments what the Latin adage intends-aut Caesar aut nullus, i.e., either the judgments sought to be produced is evidence should be conclusive inter partes, or they should not be admitted in evidence at all, unless they relate to a public custom or right, or the factum of judgment be a matter in issue.".

8.74 and 8.75. Two English cases illustrating rule against admission of judgments.-

The rule against admissibility of judgments between strangers is illustrated by two English cases. Both the cases were of actions based on the same motor car accident, and the earlier judgment, being in relation to a stranger, was regarded as inadmissible.1 We are not concerned with details of the English law as to judgments. In the present context, it will suffice to say that in England there is no specific rule, corresponding to section 13, allowing judgments between strangers to be admitted in evidence on the ground that it represents a "transaction or instance" by or in which a right is asserted, recognised etc.-except where, as already stated, the judgment refers to matters of public or general right.2

In particular, it may be stated that English decisions referring to acts and documents showing ownership or possession do not, in general, involve the use of judgments as such proof. There are, no doubt, decisions holding that a stranger to a judgment may be indirectly estopped by his acquiescence therein.3 But the relevancy of the judgment in such cases, is, strictly speaking, based not on the judgment, but on the conduct of the party in the nature of acquiescence.

1. Townsend v. Bishop, (1939) 1 All England Reports 805; Johnson v. Cartledge, (1939) 3 All England Reports 654.

2. See sections 40 to 44.

3. See, for example, Mohan v. Broughton, 1900 Probate 56.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back

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