Many a times Power of Attorneys enter the witness box on behalf of their Principals and depose facts, either based on their personal knowledge or knowledge derived from records. Questions have often been raised about the evidentiary value of depositions by such Attorneys, more so in cases where they do not possess personal knowledge of the facts of a case.
The Supreme Court in Janki Vashdeo Bhojwani v. Indusind Bank Ltd. 2005 (2) SCC 217, held as follows:
"Order III, Rules 1 and 2 CPC, empowers the holder of power of attorney to "act" on behalf of the principal. In our view the word "acts" employed in Order III, Rules 1 and 2 CPC, confines only in respect of "acts" done by the power of attorney holder in exercise of power granted by the instrument. The term "acts" would not include deposing in place and instead of the principal. In other words, if the power of attorney holder has rendered some "acts" in pursuance of power of attorney, he may depose for the principal in respect of such acts, but he cannot depose for the principal for the acts done by the principal and not by him. Similarly, he cannot depose for the principal in respect of the matter which only the principal can have a personal knowledge and in respect of which the principal is entitled to be cross-examined."
In the case of Shambhu Dutt Shastri v. State of Rajasthan 1986 2 WLN 713 (Raj) it was held that a general power of attorney holder can appear, plead and act on behalf of the party but he cannot become a witness on behalf of the party. He can only appear in his own capacity. No one can delegate the power to appear in witness box on behalf of himself. To appear in a witness box is altogether a different act. A general power of attorney holder cannot be allowed to appear as a witness on behalf of the plaintiff in the capacity of the plaintiff.
The aforesaid judgment was quoted with the approval in the case of Ram Prasad v. Hari Narain AIR 1998 Raj 185. It was held that the word "acts" used in Rule 2 of Order III of the CPC does not include the act of power of attorney holder to appear as a witness on behalf of a party. Power of attorney holder of a party can appear only as a witness in his personal capacity and whatever knowledge he has about the case he can state on oath but be cannot appear as a witness on behalf of the party in the capacity of that party. If the plaintiff is unable to appear in the court, a commission for recording his evidence may be issued under the relevant provisions of the CPC.
12. We may now summarise for convenience, the position as to who should give evidence in regard to matters involving personal knowledge:
(a) An attorney holder who has signed the plaint and instituted the suit, but has no personal knowledge of the transaction can only give formal evidence about the validity of the power of attorney and the filing of the suit.
(b) If the attorney holder has done any act or handled any transactions, in pursuance of the power of attorney granted by the principal, he may be examined as a witness to prove those acts or transactions. If the attorney holder alone has personal knowledge of such acts and transactions and not the principal, the attorney holder shall be examined, if those acts and transactions have to be proved.
(c) The attorney holder cannot depose or give evidence in place of his principal for the acts done by the principal or transactions or dealings of the principal, of which principal alone has personal knowledge.
(d) Where the principal at no point of time had personally handled or dealt with or participated in the transaction and has no personal knowledge of the transaction, and where the entire transaction has been handled by an attorney holder, necessarily the attorney holder alone can give evidence in regard to the transaction. This frequently happens in case of principals carrying on business through authorized managers/attorney holders or persons residing abroad managing their affairs through their attorney holders.
(e) Where the entire transaction has been conducted through a particular attorney holder, the principal has to examine that attorney holder to prove the transaction, and not a different or subsequent attorney holder.
(f) Where different attorney holders had dealt with the matter at different stages of the transaction, if evidence has to be led as to what transpired at those different stages, all the attorney holders will have to be examined.
(g) Where the law requires or contemplated the plaintiff or other party to a proceeding, to establish or prove something with reference to his 'state of mind' or 'conduct', normally the person concerned alone has to give evidence and not an attorney holder. A landlord who seeks eviction of his tenant, on the ground of his 'bona fide' need and a purchaser seeking specific performance who has to show his 'readiness and willingness' fall under this category. There is however a recognized exception to this requirement. Where all the affairs of a party are completely managed, transacted and looked after by an attorney (who may happen to be a close family member), it may be possible to accept the evidence of such attorney even with reference to bona fides or 'readiness and willingness'. Examples of such attorney holders are a husband/wife exclusively managing the affairs of his/her spouse, a son/daughter exclusively managing the affairs of an old and infirm parent, a father/mother exclusively managing the affairs of a son/daughter living abroad.
Read the entire Judgment here.
Read the entire Judgment here.