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The Indian Stamp Act, 1899
The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
Section 138 in The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
Section 145 in The Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881
The Indian Penal Code

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Bombay High Court
Geeta Marine Services Pvt Ltd vs The State & Another on 22 September, 2008
Bench: A.S. Oka
           IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT BOMBAY

                 CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION




                                                                 
             CRIMINAL APPLICATION NO.2633 OF 2008




                                         
    Geeta Marine Services Pvt Ltd
    & another                                  .. Applicants

           Vs.




                                        
    The State & another                        .. Respondents

    Mr.Vijay Pradhan, Sr Counsel with Mr.R.Satyanarayanan
    i/by Ravindra Sharma for the applicants.
    Mr.D.R. More, A.P.P for the State.




                                
    Mr.Joseph Verghese for the respondent no.2.

                             WITH
                      
             CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.331 OF 2008


    Shri Ashutosh Mukhyopadyay                 .. Petitioner
                     
           Vs.

    The State of Maharashtra & another         .. Respondents
      


    Mr.S.V.Marwadi i/by Mr.S.P.Narkar for the petitioner.
    Mr.D.R.More, A.P.P for the State.
   



    Mr.R.Satyanarayanan with Mr.J.S.Darod for respondent
    no.2.

                             WITH
             CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.1170 OF 2008





                             WITH
             CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.1171 OF 2008
                             WITH
             CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.1172 OF 2008





    Shri S.N.Khetan                         .. Petitioner
                                 (In all three petitions)

           Vs.

    The State of Maharashtra & another      .. Respondents
                                  (In all three petitions)




                                         ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 :::
                                        : 2 :




    Mr.S.V.Marwadi i/by Mr.S.P.Narkar for the petitioner in




                                                                          
    all three petitions.
    Mr.J.P.Yagnik,   A.P.P for the     State in all three
    petitions.




                                                  
    Mr.   Yashpal Thakur a/w Mr. Sameer Mohite, Mr.Vivek
    Patil and Ms Puja Zade i/by M/s.Paras Kuhad & Associates
    for respondent no.2 in all three petitions.




                                                 
                                   WITH
                   CRIMINAL WRIT PETITION NO.738 OF 2008

    Mr.Ketan Anant Rajpopat                             .. Petitioner




                                        
              Vs.

    The State of Maharashtra & another                  .. Respondents
                           
    Mr.Uday Warunjikar for the petitioner.
    Mrs.P.P.Shinde, A.P.P for the State.
                          
    Mr.Kafil Khan & Ms Archana Thakkar for respondent no.2.


                                CORAM : ABHAY S.OKA, J.

DATE : 19th & 22nd September 2008.

ORAL JUDGMENT:

. I have heard the submissions of the learned Counsel appearing for the parties. With a view to appreciate the submissions of the learned counsel appearing for the parties, it will be necessary to refer to the facts of the case in brief.

2. Criminal Writ Petition No.331 of 2008 has been filed for challenging the order dated 27th December 2007 ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 3 : passed by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate by which an application made by the petitioner under section 145(2) of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 (hereinafter referred to as the said Act) has been rejected. The petitioner has been arraigned as an accused in a complaint filed by the 2nd respondent under section 138 of the said Act. The application was made by the petitioner contending that in view of sub section 2 of section 145 of the said Act, the 2nd respondent will have to appear before the Court and his examination-in-chief ig will have to be recorded with regard to the facts stated in the affidavit in lieu of examination-in-chief.

3. Criminal Writ Petition Nos.1170 of 2008, 1171 of 2008 and 1172 of 2008 have been filed by the same petitioner who has been arraigned as an accused in complaints filed by the 2nd respondent in these petitions under section 138 of the said Act. The challenge in these petitions is to the order dated 30th May 2008 by which the similar applications made by the petitioner under sub section 2 of section 145 of the said Act have been rejected.

4. In Criminal Writ Petition No.738 of 2008, the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 4 : 2nd respondent is the complainant in a complaint under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881.

Here again, the challenge by the petitioner accused is to the order passed on application made by the petitioner under section 145(2) of the said Act.

5. In so far as Criminal Application No.2633 of 2008 is concerned, the controversy is some what different. This application under section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 has been filed by the accused in a complaint filed by the 2nd respondent under section 138 read with section 141 of the said act.

Here, the challenge is to the order dated 02nd August 2008 passed by the learned Magistrate. In this case evidence was adduced by the complainant by filing an affidavit in lieu of examination-in-chief. The complainant stepped into witness box for recording a formal examination in chief in which he stated that the contents of the affidavit were as per his personal knowledge. He referred to the list of documents produced separately. In his examination in chief, the learned Judge noted that so far as proof of contents of document is concerned that will be decided on totality of evidence. The question of evidentiary value of the said documents was left open and the learned Judge ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 5 : proceeded to exhibit the documents produced by the complainant. An application was made on behalf of the applicants accused contending that it was necessary to decide the issue of relevancy and admissibility of documents tendered by the 2nd respondent complainant at Exhibit P-2 to P-17 and Exhibit P-19 and the said documents be declared as inadmissible. By order dated 02nd August 2008, the leaned Magistrate rejected the said application by recording that provisions of paragraph 33 of Chapter VI of the Criminal Manual have been complied ig with. He observed that when the complainant entered the witness box, each and every document came to be exhibited. The learned Judge observed that paragraph 33 of Chapter VI of the Criminal Manual never contemplates a decision on the evidentiary value of the documents at the time of filing them in the Court.

6. The first submission made by the learned counsel appearing for the applicants/petitioners was on the interpretation of section 145(2) of the said Act. It must be stated here that when the view taken by a Division Bench of this Court on the interpretation of section 145(2) in the case of KSL and Industries Ltd Vs. Mannalal Khandelwal and another (2005 Criminal Law ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 6 : Journal 1201) as well as the view taken by several learned single Judges of this Court was brought to the notice of the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners/applicants, it was pointed out that the said view is subject matter of challenge in Special Leave Petitions before the Apex Court which are being heard.

Since this Court has already taken a view, no submissions are made on the said aspect of the case with a prayer that the said contention may be kept open.

    7.           The      main
                                ig  submissions           have been          made      on     the

    procedure           to     be     followed         when the       evidence         of     the
                              
    complainant           is       recorded        by permitting           filing        of     an

affidavit in lieu of examination in chief in a complaint under section 138 of the said Act. Shri Marwadi appearing for the petitioners in some of the petitions submitted that immediately after examination-in-chief in the form of an affidavit of the complainant is recorded, the learned Magistrate is under an obligation to consider whether the documents produced by the complainant are admissible in evidence and whether the said documents have been duly proved. He submitted that unless the issue regarding proof and admissibility of documents is immediately decided by the Magistrates, it is not possible to effectively cross-examine the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 7 : complainant as the cross-examiner does not know as to which documents are held as proved. He submitted there is well established practice followed in all Courts in the State that if cross-examination of a witness is made by referring a document to the witness, the said document is admitted in evidence and is marked as an exhibit. He submitted that in view of this practice, a seasoned advocate never cross-examines a witness on a document which is not proved by the rival party. His contention is that if issue of proof of the documents is postponed till ig final arguments, the advocate cross examining a witness is put to a disadvantage. His submission is that if the decision on the aspect of admissibility and proof of documents produced by the complainant is postponed till the final arguments, prejudice will be caused to the accused as advocate for accused is not in a position to effectively cross-examine the complainant or his witnesses. He has referred to several decisions, a reference to which is made in this judgment. Same are the submissions made by Shri J.P.Cama, the learned senior counsel appearing in support of Criminal Writ Petition No.738 of 2008.

8. The learned senior counsel appearing in support of Criminal Application No.2633 of 2008 referred to the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 8 : decision of the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Shantilal Panchal Vs. State of Gujarat and another (2001 Criminal Law Journal 1254) and submitted that what is laid down by the Apex Court therein is only a guideline. He submitted that the directions, if any, issued by the Apex Court are confined to an objection regarding admissibility of any material or any item of oral evidence and the directions do not relate to the procedure to be followed as regards marking the documents as exhibits. He submitted that even assuming that the Apex Court has laid down the procedure by the said decision, the Courts in Maharashtra are bound by the rules contained in Criminal Manual issued by this Court and therefore the Courts are bound by paragraphs 33 to 35 of Chapter VI of the Criminal Manual. He invited my attention to another decision of the Apex Court in the case of R.V.E.Venkatachala Gounder Vs. Arulmigu Viswesaraswami and V.P.Temple and another (AIR 2003 Supreme Court 4548). He submitted that the observations in the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) are only in the nature of guidelines and the law as regards the admissibility and proof of documents has been laid down by the Apex Court in the said decision in the case of R.V.E. Venkatachala (supra). He also placed reliance on a decision of the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 9 : learned single Judge of this Court in the case of M/s.Sanjay Cotton Company Vs. M/s Omprakash Shiopraksh and another (AIR 1973 Bombay 40).

9. The learned counsel appearing for the respondents in Criminal Writ Petition Nos.1170 of 2008, 1171 of 2008 and 1172 of 2008 submitted that in so far as interpretation of section 145(2) of the said Act is concerned, the law laid down by this Court is very clear and the said interpretation put by this Court is binding.

He invited my attention to a decision of the learned single Judge of this Court in the case of Peacock Industries Ltd and another Vs. M/s.Budhrani Finance Ltd and another (2006 ALL MR (Cri.) 2233) and submitted that this Court has held that after affidavit in lieu of examination-in-chief is filed, procedure as laid down in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) has to be followed. Reliance is also placed on a decision of another learned single Judge of this Court in the case of Peacock Industries Ltd and another Vs. Wipro Finance Ltd and another in which this Court reiterated that the learned Magistrate has to follow procedure laid down in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) so that there is no prejudice to any party. He invited my attention to what is held by the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 10 : (supra) and submitted that the guidelines therein will have to be followed by all Courts. Similar submissions have been made by the counsel appearing for the original complainants in the other petitions. It was pointed out that atleast two single judges of this Court have held that the courts dealing with complaints under section 138 of the Negotiable Instruments Act, 1881 will have to follow the procedure laid down by the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra).

10. I have carefully considered the submissions. In so far as this Court is concerned, the issue of the interpretation of sub section 2 of section 145 of the said Act of 1881 is well settled. Paragraph 38 of the decision of Division Bench of this Court in the case of KSL Industries Ltd (supra) reads thus:

"38. Sub-section (1) of section 145 gives complete freedom to the complainant either to give his evidence by way of affidavit or by way of oral evidence. If this is made on affidavit, the same has to be accepted and such affidavit is required to be kept on record by the Court.
The second part of sub-section (1) provides that the complainant may give his evidence on ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 11 : affidavit and may, subject to all just exceptions, be read in evidence in any enquiry, trial or other proceeding. Thus, it is clear that once the evidence of the complainant is given on affidavit, it may be read in evidence in any enquiry, trial or other proceeding, and it may be subject to all just exceptions."

11. There is a further decision of this Court in the case of Indo International Ltd and another Vs. State of Maharashtra and another (2005 (2) Bombay Cases Reporter (Cri.) 729). In paragraph 11 of the said decision, this Court has summarised the law laid down by the Division Bench in the case of KSL Industries (supra). The relevant part of paragraph 11 reads thus:

" ..... Thus, the law laid down by the Division Bench in the decision of KSL Industries can be summarised as under:
                        (a)          The      Court    dealing             with        a





                        complaint          under section 138 of the said

                        Act     of    1881     has    an    option         to     take

evidence of the witnesses on the side of the prosecution as well as evidence of ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 12 : the accused and the defence witnesses, if any, on affidavit.
(b) If the evidence of a witness is taken on affidavit, after an application is made by the other party under sub section (2) of section 145, it is not necessary to again record examination-in-chief of the witness whose affidavit of examination-in-chief is already filed.
                      (c)       If      an affidavit is filed               under

                      sub     section     (1) of section 145 and                 an

                      application        is    made under sub           section
      


                      (2)     of section 145 by the other                 party,
   



the witnesses must be made available for cross examination by the rival party.

In my view, the decision of the Division Bench clearly and unambiguously lays down the aforesaid propositions of law and the Division Bench has clearly answered the issue which was referred to it by the learned single Judge of this Court."

::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 13 :

12. Therefore, so far as this Court is concerned, the view is settled. However, I am informed that now the Apex Court is seized of matters involving the said issue and therefore if any modification is made by the Apex Court in the view taken by this Court naturally the learned Magistrates will have to abide by the law laid down by the Apex Court. It was tried to be submitted that the decision of this Court in the case of Peacock Industries Ltd (supra) which has taken the similar view based on the case of KSL Industries (supra) has been stayed by the Apex Court. However, the law on this aspect is very clear. In the case of Pramod K. Shah Vs. Commissioner of Custom Export Promotion and another [2007 All MR (Cri) 1335] this Court has held that even if a decision of this Court is stayed by the Apex Court, unless the decision of this Court is set aside by the Apex Court, the Courts sub-ordinate to this Court are bound by the same. The said decision of this Court follows the decision of the Apex Court in the case of M/s.Shree Chamundi Mopeds Ltd Vs. Church of South Indian Trust Association, Madras (AIR 1992 Supreme Court 1434).

13. That takes me to the main issue which is canvassed in these petitions regarding procedure to be ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 14 : followed regarding marking the documents as exhibits. I am dealing with a case where the parties lead evidence by filing affidavits. Whenever, an affidavit in lieu of examination in chief is filed, the witness has to enter the witness box and formally depose to the contents of the affidavit and only thereafter an affidavit can be read as examination in chief [See Shelatkar Construction Pvt Ltd. Vs. Creative Enterprises {2008 All MR (Cri) 475}]. After the said formal examination in chief is recorded, the stage contemplated by section 294 of the said Code of 1973 will come in the picture. The documents are required to be tendered alongwith a list and the rival party is called upon to admit or deny genuineness of such documents. As per sub section 3 of section 294 where the genuineness of any document is not disputed, such document may be read in evidence in the trial without proof of the signature of the person by whom it purports to be signed. Thus, when genuineness of the document produced is not disputed after being called upon as required by sub-ection 1 of section 294, the said document can be treated as proved and examination of a witness for proving the document is not required. In this behalf, it will be necessary to refer to a decision of Full Bench of this Court in the case of Shaikh Farid Hussainsab Vs. State of Maharashtra (1981 ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 15 : Maharashtra Law Journal 345). Paragraph 7 of the said judgment reads thus:

"7. Section 294 of the Code is introduced to dispense with this avoidable waste of time and facilitate removal of such obstruction in the speedy trial. The accused is now enabled to waive the said right and save the time. This is a new provision having no corresponding provision in the repealed Code of Criminal Procedure.
                         ig     It     requires the prosecutor or                  the

            accused,      as     the case may be, to admit or                     deny
                       
            the    genuineness          of the documents sought to                   be

            relied against him at the outset in writing.                             On

            his    admitting          or indicating no dispute                as     to
      


genuineness, the Court is authorised to dispense with its formal proof thereof. Infact after indication of no dispute as to the genuineness, proof of documents is reduced to a sheer empty formality. The section is obviously aimed at undoing the judicial view by legislative process."

process. (Emphasis supplied)

14. The issue before the Full Bench was answered in paragraph 18 which reads thus:

::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 16 :
"18. We accordingly hold that sub section (3) of section 294 of the Code covers post-mortem notes and every other document of which genuineness is not disputed. Thus such documents can be read in evidence as genuine without the formal proof. In our view, Ganpat Raoji's case is not correctly decided."




                                                
               (Emphasis added)



    Therefore,        the
                             ig  document     which is admitted              under       sub

section 3 of section 294 of the said Code of 1973 can be read in evidence as genuine without the formal proof of the said document. Therefore, after affidavit in lieu of examination in chief is filed and formal evidence of the witness is recorded, the exercise provided by section 294 of the said Code of 1973 will have to be completed by the learned Magistrate.

15. The real issue arises when a dispute is raised regarding the proof of a document or admissibility of a document in evidence which is tendered alongwith a list of documents or alongwith an affidavit in lieu of examination-in-chief. My attention was invited to the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 17 : (supra). Paragraphs 12 to 15 of the said decision read thus:

"12. It is an archaic practice that during the evidence collecting stage, whenever any objection is raised regarding admissibility of any material in evidence the Court does not proceed further without passing order on such objection. But the fall out of the above practice is this: Suppose the trial Court, in a case, upholds a particular objection and excludes the material from being admitted in evidence and then proceeds with the trial and disposes of the case finally. If the appellate or revisional Court, when the same question is re-canvassed, could take a different view on the admissibility of that material in such cases the appellate Court would be deprived of the benefit of that evidence, because that was not put on record by the trial Court. In such a situation the higher Court may have to send the case back to the trial Court for recording that evidence and then to dispose of the case afresh. Why should the trial prolong like that unnecessarily on account of practices created by ourselves.
::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 18 :

Such practices, when realised through the course of long period to be hindrances which impede steady and swift progress of trial proceedings, must be recast or re-mouled to give way for better substitutes which would help acceleration of trial proceedings.

13. When so recast, the practice which can be a better substitute is this: Whenever an objection is raised during evidence taking stage regarding ig the admissibility of any material or item of oral evidence the trial Court can make a note of such objection and mark the objected document tentatively as an exhibit in the case (or record the objected part of the oral evidence) subject to such objections to be decided at the last stage in the final judgment.

If the Court finds at the final stage that the objection so raised is sustainable the Judge or Magistrate can keep such evidence excluded from consideration. In our view there is no illegality in adopting such a course. However, we make it clear that if the objection relates to deficiency of stamp duty of a document the Court has to decide the objection before ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 19 : proceeding further. For all other objections the procedure suggested above can be followed.

14. The above procedure, if followed, will have two advantages. First is that the time in the trial Court, during evidence taking stage, would not be wasted on account of raising such objections and the Court can continue to examine the witnesses. The witnesses need not wait for long hours, if not days. Second is that the superior igCourt, when the same objection is re-canvassed and reconsidered in appeal or revision against the final judgment of the trial Court, can determine the correctness of the view taken by the trial Court regarding that objection, without bothering to remit the case to the trial Court again for fresh disposal. We may also point out that this measure would not cause any prejudice to the parties to the litigation and would not add to their misery or expenses.

      15.       We,     therefore,        make        the      above       as     a

      procedure       to   be followed by the                trial       Courts

      whenever    an       objection is raised regarding                      the




                                                 ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 :::
                                            : 20 :




               admissibility           of     any material or any                  item      of

oral evidence." (Emphasis supplied)

16. My attention was also invited to a subsequent decision of the Apex Court in the case of R.V.E.Venkatachala (supra). It must be stated here that the said decision is rendered in a Special Leave Petition arising out of a civil suit. However, the said decision will be relevant in so far as proof or admissibility of documents in evidence is concerned.

Law of evidence as regards proof and admissibility of documents is the same which is applicable to both civil and criminal trials. It will be necessary to refer to the relevant part of the said judgment. In paragraph 20 the Apex Court has held as under:

               "20.        The         learned           counsel               for         the





               defendant-respondent                has   relied on             the      Roman

               Catholic         Mission       v.      State         of       Madras        and

               another,         AIR    1966        SC 1457 in support                of    his





               submission         that      a document not              admissible           in

               evidence,         though       brought on record, has to                      be

               excluded from consideration.                      We do not have any

dispute with the proposition of law so laid down ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 21 : in the abovesaid case. However, the present one is a case which calls for the correct position of law being made precise. Ordinarily an objection to the admissibility of evidence should be taken when it is tendered and not subsequently. The objections as to admissibility of documents in evidence may be classified into two classes :- (i) an objection that the document which is sought to be proved is itself inadmissible in evidence; and (ii) where the objection does not dispute the admissibility of the document in evidence but is directed towards the mode of proof alleging the same to be irregular or insufficient. In the first case, merely because a document has been marked as 'an exhibit', an objection as to its admissibility is not excluded and is available to be raised even at later stage or even in appeal or revision. In the latter case, the objection should be taken before the evidence is tendered and once the document has been admitted in evidence and marked as an exhibit, the objection that it should not have been admitted in evidence or that the mode adopted for proving the document is irregular cannot be allowed to ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 22 : be raised at any stage subsequent to the marking of the document as an exhibit. The later proposition is a rule of fair play. The crucial test is whether an objection, if taken at the appropriate point of time would have enabled the party tendering the evidence to cure the defect and resort to such mode of proof as would be regular. The omission to object becomes fatal because by his failure the party entitled to object allows the party tendering the evidence to act on an assumption that the opposite party is not serious about the mode of proof. On the other hand, a prompt objection does not prejudice the party tendering the evidence, for two reasons: firstly, it enables the court to apply its mind and pronounce its decision on the question of admissibility then and there: and secondly, in the event of finding of the Court on the mode of proof sought to be adopted going against the party tendering the evidence, the opportunity of seeking indulgence of the Court for permitting a regular mode or method of proof and thereby removing the objection raised by the opposite party, is available to the party leading the evidence. Such practice and ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 23 : procedure is fair to both the parties. Out of the two types of objections, referred to hereinabove, in the later case failure to raise a prompt and timely objection amounts to waiver of the necessity for insisting on formal proof of a document, the document itself which is sought to be proved being admissible in evidence. In the first case, acquiescence would be no bar to raising the objection in superior Court." (Emphasis supplied)

17. Thus, the Apex Court has categorised the objections raised to the documents into two classes.

One is where admissibility of document in evidence is not in dispute, but it is contended that the document is not proved or the proof in support of the document is insufficient. The second category of objection is an objection that the document which is sought to be proved is itself inadmissible in evidence. The Apex Court held that in so far as in first category where dispute is of proof of documents is concerned, the objection should be taken at the earliest and the objection that the mode adopted for proving the document is irregular or insufficient cannot be allowed to be raised at any stage ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 24 : subsequent to the marking of document as exhibit. In so far as the said category of objection that a document is not properly proved is concerned, the Apex Court observed that if the said objection is raised at the outset, it enables the Court to apply its mind and pronounce its decision on the question then and there.

In the event of finding of the Court on issue of proof of document going against the party tendering the document in evidence, an opportunity of seeking indulgence of the Court for leading further evidence to prove the document by adopting proper mode is available.

In so far as the second category of objection is concerned, the Apex Court held that even if a document is marked as exhibit, an objection simplicitor as to its admissibility is not excluded and is available to be raised at a latter stage.

18. It must be noted here that there is one more category of objection which relates to insufficiency of stamp on the document sought to be tendered. On this aspect there is a decision of the Apex Court of its constitution bench consisting of five Hon'ble Judges in the case of Javer Chand and others Vs. Pukhraj Surana (AIR 1961 Supreme Court 1655). The Apex Court considered the provisions of section 36 of the Indian ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 25 : Stamp Act and relevant provisions of the Evidence Act.

The Apex Court held as under:

"..... Where a question as to the admissibility of a document is raised on the ground that it has not been stamped, or has not been properly stamped it has to be decided then and there when the document is tendered in evidence. Once the Court rightly or wrongly, decides to admit the document in evidence, so far as the parties are concerned ig the matter is closed. Section 35 is in the nature of a penal provision and has far-reaching effects. Parties to a litigation, where such a controversy is raised, have to be circumspect and the party challenging the admissibility of the document has to be alert to see that the document is not admitted in evidence by the Court. The Court has to judicially determine the matter as soon as the document is tendered in evidence and before it is marked as an exhibit, in the case. The record in this case discloses the fact that the hundis were marked as Exhibits P.1 and P.2 and bore the endorsement 'admitted in evidence' under the signature of the Court. It is not, ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 26 : therefore, one of those cases where a document has been inadvertently admitted, without the Court applying its mind to the question of its admissibility. Once a document has been marked as an exhibit in the case and the trial has proceeded all along on the footing that the document was an exhibit in the case and has been used by the parties in examination and cross examination of their witnesses, S.36 of the Stamp Act comes into consideration. Once a document ig has been admitted in evidence, as aforesaid, it is not open either to the Trial Court itself or to a Court of Appeal or revision to go behind that order. ....."

19. The position under the Bombay Stamp Act, 1958 is no different in view of section 35 thereof. Therefore, the Apex Court has held that where a question as to admissibility of document is raised on the ground that it has not been stamped or has not been properly stamped, the party challenging the admissibility of the document has to raise the objection at the earliest and the Court has to judicially determine the matter as soon as the document is tendered in evidence and before it is ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 27 : marked as an exhibit in the case.

20. It will be necessary to refer to criminal manual issued by this Court. The preface to criminal manual by the learned Registrar of this Court records that criminal manual published in the year 1960 was revised taking into consideration the fact that the said Code of 1973 came into force. The preface specifically records that the revised draft of the criminal manual was approved by the Hon'ble the Governor in exercise of power under clause 3 of Article 227 of the Constitution of India. The gazette notification dated 20th June 1982 specially records that in exercise of powers conferred by Article 227 of the Constitution of India, the Hon'ble the Chief Justice has been pleased to appoint 16th August 1982 as the date on which the revised criminal manual came into force. Thus, it is apparent that the criminal manual and the rules contained therein have been issued in exercise of powers conferred by Article 227 (2) (b) of the Constitution of India. The said provision empowers the High Court to make and issue general rules regulating the practice and proceeding of Courts sub-ordinate to this Court. In this context a reference will have to be made to Chapter VI and in particular paragraphs 33 and 34 thereof which read thus:

::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 28 :

"33. (1) When the documents are sought to be produced in the courts, the courts concerned should insist upon the list of such documents and the production thereof being made in chronological or some other methodical order.





                                                
      (2)        Similarly,           the courts concerned               should




                                     
      determine        as to whether documents sought to                        be

      produced         in      the    court      are       relevant           and

      admissible
                 ig       or     not,     at     the      time      when      the

      documents        are sought to be produced, and not at
               
      the time of the delivery of judgment.



      34.        When       a witness prove any document,                     the
      


      correct       exhibit       number should          immediately            be
   



noted (i) on the document itself and (ii) in the body of deposition against the description of the documents so that the appellate or revisional court may not be required to waste its time in tracing the documents. Similarly, when another witness who has already been examined is referred to by any witness in its deposition, the exhibit number of the deposition of such other witness should invariably be noted ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 29 : in the deposition immediately after the reference to the witness."

Clause 2 of paragraph 33 thus provides that when documents are sought to be produced in Court, the issue of admissibility has to be decided and it cannot be postponed till the delivery of judgment. Rule 34 mandates that when a witness has proved any document, the document should be immediately marked as exhibit.

Rule 34 further provides that the exhibit number shall be incorporated on the document itself and also in the body of deposition.

21. On this aspect, it will be necessary to refer to another decision of the Apex Court in the case of Sait Tarajee Khimchand and others Vs. Yelamarti Satyam Alias Satteyya and others [(1972) 4 Supreme Court Cases 562].

The Apex Court in the said decision reiterated well established principle that the mere marking of an exhibit does not dispense with the proof of the documents. The said principle has been reiterated by the Apex Court in a recent decision in the case of Narbada Devi Gupta Vs. Birendra Kumar Jaiswal and another [(2003) 8 Supreme Court Cases 745]. Paragraph ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 30 : 16 of the said decision reads thus:

"16. Reliance is heavily placed on behalf of the appellant on the case of Ramji Dayawala and Sons (P) Ltd. The legal position is not in dispute that mere production and marking of a document as exhibit by the court cannot be held to be a due proof of its contents. Its execution has to be proved by admissible evidence, that is, by the "evidence of those persons who can vouchsafe for the truth of the facts in issue". The situation is, however, different where the documents are produced, they are admitted by the opposite party, signatures on them are also admitted and they are marked thereafter as exhibits by the court. We find no force in the argument advanced on behalf of the appellant that as the mark of exhibits has been put on the back portions of the rent receipts near the place where the admitted signatures of the plaintiff appear, the rent receipts as a whole cannot be treated to have been exhibited as admitted documents." (Emphasis added) ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 31 : On this aspect, it will be necessary to refer to a decision of this Court in the case of Bama Kathari Patil Vs. Rohidas Arjun Madhavi and another (2004 (2) Maharashtra Law Journal 752). The learned Judge was dealing with a writ petition arising out of a civil suit but what is laid down by this Court will be very relevant even in a criminal trial. The learned Judge held that a document is required to be proved in accordance with the provisions of the Evidence Act and merely for administrative convenience of locating or identifying the document, it is given exhibit number by the Court. It is held that exhibiting a document has nothing to do with its proof though as matter of convenience only the proved documents are exhibited.

22. The submissions have been made by pointing out a consistent practice followed in the Courts in Maharashtra that when a document is referred to during the course of cross-examination of a witness, the said document is marked as an exhibit though it is not earlier marked as an exhibit. This is nothing but a practice of convenience. The practice of the marking a document referred to in the cross-examination is only the purposes of locating and identifying the said ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 32 : document. Marking a document as exhibit by such a process based on consistent practice followed in the Court of law does not dispense with the requirement of proof of the execution, contents and genuineness of the document in the accordance with law of evidence unless the witness concerned admits the execution and genuineness of the document. Therefore, marking a document in cross-examination in this manner will not dispense with the proof of the document in accordance with law of evidence.

23. As set out earlier, the Apex Court has made three categories of objections raised by rival party when documents are produced in Court of law. The first objection is regarding insufficiency of the proof and/or irregular mode adopted for proving the document. This objection is that the document has not been proved in accordance with law. The second objection is that the document is not properly stamped as required by the Stamp Act or Bombay Stamp Act as the case may be. The third objection is that the document sought to be proved is otherwise inadmissible in evidence. In the case of R.V.E.Venkatachala (supra) the Apex Court has made specific distinction between the first objection regarding insufficiency of proof or irregular or ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 33 : incorrect mode of proof and the other objection regarding inadmissibility in evidence. The Apex Court observed that is so far as objection regarding proof of document is concerned, the same has to be decided then and there. However, even after marking a document as exhibit, an objection to its admissibility can be raised at any stage of the proceedings. The decision on this objection can be postponed till final disposal of the case. As pointed out earlier, as far as objection regarding insufficiency of stamp is concerned, the constitution bench of the Apex Court has already held that such objection has to be raised before a document is marked as exhibit and the same has to be decided immediately.

24. At this stage, it will be necessary to go back to the decision of the apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra). In paragraph 12 of the said judgment the Apex Court has referred to objection regarding admissibility of any material in evidence. Paragraph 13 again refers to the objection regarding admissibility of any material or item of oral evidence. In paragraph 14 the Apex Court has noted a contingency where the decision taken on objection regarding admissibility may amount to wasting the time of the Court and delaying the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 34 : further recording of evidence. An argument was advanced that in the case of Peacock Industries (supra) and in particular in paragraph 41 thereof this Court has accepted that the procedure laid down in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) has to be followed in trials under section 138 of the said Act. My attention was also invited to a decision of another learned single Judge of this Court which is rendered in the case of M/s.Peacock Industries and another Vs. Wipro Finance Ltd and another dated 04th October 2005 wherein this Court held that the course adopted by the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) is required to be followed. After referring to the case of Bipin Panchal (supra), in paragraph 10 the learned Judge has observed thus:

"10. It is clarified that if any objection is raised during the evidence taking stage regarding admissibility of any material or item or oral evidence, the trial Court to make a note of such objection and mark the objected document or portion tentatively as an exhibit in the case subject to such objections to be decided at the last stage during the final judgment."
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25. On plain reading of the decision of the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra), it is apparent that the same does not deal with an objection as regards proof of a document or insufficiency of proof or incorrect mode of proof. The said judgment deals with objection regarding the admissibility of the document in evidence which is a separate category of objection as distinguished from an objection regarding proof as laid down by the Apex Court in the case of R.V.E.Venkatachala (supra). It is true that the procedure laid ig down by the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) will have to be followed by the Courts sub-ordinate to this Court. However, the said decision of Apex Court is applicable only to one category of objection regarding admissibility of the document in evidence and that decision has no application when an objection is raised to the proof or to irregular/insufficient mode of proof of a document.

As far as objection regarding inadequacy of stamp is concerned that is already settled by the larger bench of the Apex Court in the case of Javer Chand. Infact, in the decision of this Court in the case of Peacock Industries (supra), the judgment of the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra) is not read and interpreted to mean that it also applies to the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 36 : objection regarding proof of documents. Therefore, after filing of affidavit of examination-in-chief and after recording formal examination-in-chief of the concerned witness, an objection raised regarding proof of documents or insufficiency of proof or of adopting incorrect mode of proof has to be dealt with immediately by the learned Magistrate before proceeding with the recording of cross-examination. Only in a case where the said adjudication involves a decision on complicated questions which require a very detailed adjudication, it can be postponed ig till the final hearing. In a case where a document is proved in accordance with Evidence Act but an objection is raised to the admissibility of the said document, as held by the Apex Court in the case of Bipin Panchal (supra), such document can be tentatively marked as an exhibit as objection to the admissibility can be decided at the stage of final hearing as contemplated in the decision of the case of Bipin Panchal (supra). As pointed out earlier, if objection regarding proof of a document is decided, the complainant or accused who has produced the said documents is put to the notice that the document is not held as proved so that he can seek indulgence from the Court of leading further evidence. This avoids possibility of parties applying at the stage of judgment ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 37 : for recalling the witness or for leading further evidence for proving a document.

26. I have already held that merely because a document referred to in cross-examination is marked as an exhibit, the same does not dispense with the proof of document in accordance with law of evidence.

27. After summarising the law on the aspects stated above, now it will be necessary to deal with the merits of the petitions which are before the Court. Criminal Writ Petition Nos.331 of 2008, 1170 of 2008, 1171 of 2008 and 1172 of 2008 are concerned, the prayer for directing the complainant to step into witness box based on sub section 2 of section 145 cannot be entertained in view of the decision in K.S.L. Industries (supra).

28. Now turning to the Criminal Application No.2633 of 2008, it will be necessary to refer to the impugned order. As pointed out earlier, the challenge is to the order dated 02nd August 2008 passed by the learned Magistrate. Before passing the said order, the learned Judge has passed an order dated 16th July 2008 marking the certain documents as exhibits. While doing so the learned Judge has observed that so far as proof of the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 38 : contents of the documents is concerned, it will be decided on totality of the evidence leaving open the question of evidentiary value of the said documents.

While passing order dated 02nd August 2008, the learned Judge has observed as under:

".... As the question of admissibility of those documents was raised at that time itself, the witness was taken into witness box, the oath was administered to him and it was already decided that the documents were admissible in evidence by virtue of sections 77 and 79 of the Evidence Act. Each and every document was referred by the witness by standing in the witness box and each and every document came to be exhibited there. Then the examination in chief was closed and the case is for cross examination. So the provisions of para 33 of Chapter 6 of the Criminal Manual are complied with. So far as the evidentiary value of the document is concerned, the same has to be decided in the judgment only.
. Para No.33 of the Chapter 6 of the Criminal Manual never contemplates to decide the ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 39 : evidentiary value of the document at the time of filing them in the Court, otherwise the Court will have to give judgment every time on each of every document whenever document is sought to be filed on record."

In this order the learned Judge has observed that compliance has been made with provisions of paragraph 33 of Chapter VI while marking the documents. The learned Judge has observed that in so far as the evidentiary value of the document is concerned, the same will be decided at the time of the judgment. In the first order referred to above, the learned Judge has held that even the issue regarding proof of contents of the documents will have to be decided on totality of evidence. In order dated 16th July 2008, the learned Judge has specifically recorded that the learned counsel for the petitioner does not object to admissibility of the documents except document at serial no.1 which is the affidavit in lieu of examination in chief. The perusal of the order dated 16th July 2008 shows that there is no specific objection raised regarding the proof of the documents. The order dated 16th July 2008 has been recorded during the course of recording formal examination-in-chief of the complainant. As far as ::: Downloaded on - 09/06/2013 13:53:12 ::: : 40 : objection to the admissibility of affidavit of examination-in-chief is concerned, as stated above, the interpretation made by this Court of section 145(2) of the said Act of 1881 stands and therefore objection to admissibility of the affidavit of examination in chief cannot be sustained. In the circumstances, no interference is called for with the impugned orders subject to what is laid down in this judgment.

29. In Criminal Writ Petition no.738 of 2008, the learned Judge has tentatively marked all the documents produced by the complainant as exhibits. As held earlier, before proceeding to record the cross-examination, the learned Judge will have to deal with the objection as regards proof of the documents leaving the objection, if any, as regards admissibility open.

30. Hence, I pass the following order:

               .               Subject       to    what    is observed           in     this





               judgment,            no case for interference is made                     out

               and the petitions are disposed of.




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            : 41 :




                          (A.S. Oka, J)




                                            
                    
                   
            
       
      
      
   






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