Skip to content


Mehi Lal Vs. Ramji Dass and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
CourtAllahabad
Decided On
Judge
Reported inAIR1924All792; 80Ind.Cas.939
AppellantMehi Lal
RespondentRamji Dass and anr.
Cases ReferredGhure v. Chatrapal Singh
Excerpt:
evidence act (i of 1872), section 63(5) - seen it, interpretation of--interpretation of statutes. - - 1. this appeal raises, a nice point and a very interesting point, namely as to the meaning of the words 'seen it' used with reference to a document in section 63 of the evidence act. under sub-section 5 of section 63, only a witness who has himself seen a document is entitled to give evidence of it,'and he goes on to say 'this clearly implies that it must be a witness who could read 'the document,'and he follows a decision of mr. it one were to indulge in speculation upon what is undoubtedly a rather interesting literary problem, it is not impossible that the original intention was to say 'read it......so entitled. he rightly says: under sub-section 5 of section 63, only a witness who has himself seen a document is entitled to give evidence of it,' and he goes on to say 'this clearly implies that it must be a witness who could read 'the document,' and he follows a decision of mr. justice tudball in the case of ghure v. chatrapal singh (1) after hearing the matter very fully argued, we have come to the conclusion, with great respect to these two judges, that we are unable to agree. the critical words in the section are 'seen it.' the result of the decision would be, for example, that a highly educated person knowing several languages except german, who had seen an original document in german which had been lost, and who was interested in its contents and had had them translated to.....
Judgment:

1. This appeal raises, a nice point and a very interesting point, namely as to the meaning of the words 'seen it' used with reference to a document in Section 63 of the Evidence Act. The facts of the case are so far as they are material that an attesting witness to a certain mortgage transaction for Rs. 80, alleged to have taken place in 1865, which is either lost or not forthcoming, so as to entitle the party to give secondary evidence of it, was produced in the Trial Court. His name was Anandi Lal. He was ignorant of Persian character, and, therefore, unable to read the document itself, but he purported to give evidence, or at any rate the first Court of appeal understood him to give evidence, that the contents of the document were either translated, or read out to him, or explained to him, in such a way that he was able to remember them, and he gave on oath his recollection of the material contents of the document, and has been believed by the first Court of appeal. If that finding of fact can be justified in law, the plaintiff's case is established. The question is whether the judge was entitled to hear and believe the witness's oral account of the contents of the document. The matter came before a Judge of this Court, and in a very clear judgment he has held that the District Judge was not so entitled. He rightly says: under Sub-section 5 of Section 63, only a witness who has himself seen a document is entitled to give evidence of it,' and he goes on to say 'this clearly implies that it must be a witness who could read 'the document,' and he follows a decision of Mr. Justice Tudball in the case of Ghure v. Chatrapal Singh (1) After hearing the matter very fully argued, we have come to the conclusion, with great respect to these two Judges, that we are unable to agree. The critical words in the section are 'seen it.' The result of the decision would be, for example, that a highly educated person knowing several languages except German, who had seen an original document in German which had been lost, and who was interested in its contents and had had them translated to him by an equally highly educated person who knew German, and explained to him phrase by phrase in such a way that the English translation of the German contents were firmly imprinted on his memory, could not give the contents of that document in evidence under Section 63, although he undoubtedly had seen the document. It does not follow, because an interpretation leads to a startling result, that it is necessarily wrong, But it must be admitted that the interpretation which produces this result is not the literal meaning of the language used but involves the addition of words which are not in the section. Nobody can doubt that one is from time to time compelled to imply or read into the language of an ambiguous section something which is not actually there, but as a general rule the safest course is to hold fast to the exact language in its ordinary interpretation, if it is capable of bearing it. It is difficult to draw the line once you begin to introduce ideas of your own, and a loose method of interpretation undoubtedly leads to a great deal of difference of opinion and uncertainty. We are of opinion that the section means what it says. The question is, has the witness seen the document? The further question whether he is able to give evidence of its contents, is a question of his credibility. Mr. Justice Tudball in his judgmeut is of opinion that the words 'seen it' mean having seen and examined the document, so as to be in a position to give direct evidence of its contents. The section does not say that. It might have said 'read it.' It says neither. If, as might be expected, the legislature intended the right of the withness to give the contents, to depend upon what he saw, the language should have been not 'seen it', but seen them. As the matter stands, he is allowed to give an oral account of the contents, when he has merely seen the document, and obviously once he has seen the document, his capacity to give the contents may result, not from what he saw, but from what he was told at the time when he saw it. In other words the admissibility of the evidence is one thing, the weight be attached to it by a Judge of fact is another. It one were to indulge in speculation upon what is undoubtedly a rather interesting literary problem, it is not impossible that the original intention was to say 'read it.' But a great proportion of the population in India cannot read at all, and that provision would have excluded a large body of valuable evidence. Whether this was so or not, we have to take the language as we find it, according to its natural meaning. The fact that the witness has seen it makes his oral account admissible. The important question whether his account is credible is a question of fact for the trial Court,

2. We, therefore, allow the appeal and restore the decree of the District Judge with costs here and below, including in this Court fees on the higher scale.


Save Judgments// Add Notes // Store Search Result sets // Organizer Client Files //