A term used in cases of overtures and communications between parties to an action at law by which it is specified that should the negotiations fail to result in the adjustment of the controversy nothing that has transpired at such meetings will be taken advantage of at subsequent hearings before the court, but all will be regarded as “without prejudice” to the matter at issue.
“The Appellate Collector has clearly used the words “without prejudice” which also indicate that the order of the Collector was not final and irrevocable. The term “without prejudice” has been defined in Black”s Law Dictionary as follows:
“Where an offer or admission is made “without prejudice”, or a motion is denied or a bill in equity dismissed “without prejudice”, it is meant as a declaration that no rights or privileges of the party concerned are to be considered as thereby waived or lost, except in so far as may be expressly conceded or decided. See also Dismissal without prejudice”.
Similarly, in Wharton”s Law Lexicon the author while interpreting the term “without prejudice” observed as follows:-
“The words import an understanding that if the negotiation fails, nothing that has passed shall be taken advantage of thereafter; so, if a defendant offer, “without prejudice”, to pay half the claim, the plaintiff must not only rely on the offer as an admission of his having a right to some payment.
The rule is that nothing written or said “without prejudice” can be considered at the trial without the consent of both parties – not even by a judge in determining whether or not there is good cause for depriving a successful litigant of costs … … … … The word is also frequently used without the foregoing implications in statutes and inter partes to exclude or save transactions, acts and rights from the consequences of a stated proposition and so as to mean “not affecting”, “saving” or “excepting”.”
In short, therefore, the implication of the term “without prejudice” means (1) that the cause or the matter has not been decided on merits, (2) that fresh proceedings according to law were not barred. It is true that the Appellate Collector does not say in so many words that the case is remanded to the Assistant Collector but the tenor and the spirit of the order clearly shows that what he intended was that fresh proceedings should be started against the respondent after complying with the rules of natural justice. Thus, in our view a true interpretation of the order of the Appellate Collector would be that the order of the Assistant Collector was a nullity having violated the rules of natural justice and having been vacated the parties would be relegated to the position which they occupied before the order of the Assistant Collector was passed. In this view of the matter the Assistant Collector had ample jurisdiction in issuing the notice against the respondent in order to start fresh adjudicatory proceedings in accordance with law”[AIR 1978 SC 1244 : (1978) 3 SCR 729]