P. Ramamurthi, J.
1. This revision petition arises out of an application filed by the defendant for sending two documents to the handwriting expert Mr. Dixit of Nagpur or Mr. Mahajan of Bangalore for ascertaining their opinion about the genuineness of the disputed signatures.
2. The plaintiff-respondent has filed a suit to recover a sum of Rs. 10,000 and odd due on a mortgage executed by the defendant in favour of the plaintiffs' deceased father. The defendant is resisting the suit on the ground that the entire mortgage debt had been discharged and in support of that plea he has relied upon two documents : (1) A receipt, dated 30th March, 1954, alleged to have been passed in his favour acknowledging the payment of Rs. 10,000 and odd; and (ii) the letter, dated 9th December, 1955, written to him evidencing this plea of discharge.
3. As the genuineness of the signatures in the documents was disputed the defendant at an earlier stage filed Interlocutory Application No. 248 of 1964, for obtaining the opinion of the handwriting expert. The Court then sent the two documents to one Bhanagay of Nagpur, who has sent his report, which it is represented, is against the defendant. At that time one affidavit containing the admitted signature of the plaintiff's father was sent for comparison and the expert had reported that the disputed signatures did not tally with or resemble the admitted signature.
4. The defendant has now come forward with a second application, Interlocutory Application No. 850 of 1964, for seeking the opinion of another expert by comparison of the disputed signatures with the admitted signature in some other affidavit. This time the defendant wants the report to be obtained either from Dixit or Mahajan. Since Mr. Bhanagay had already examined the documents it was suggested to the Court (on behalf of the plaintiff) that this time also the documents can be sent to the same expert, Bhanagay, and the trial Court readily acceded to this suggestion The defendant has preferred this revision against the said order.
5. Learned Counsel for the petitioner contends that when his client wanted the documents to be examined by a named expert neither the plaintiff nor the Court could compel his client to choose or accept a handwriting expert of the choice of the plaintiff. In other words, the substance of the contention is that the plaintiff has no right to compel the defendant to choose as witness on his side, a person of the plaintiff's choice.
6. The Court below was clearly in error in acceding to this extraordinary request of the plaintiff. When the document is sent to the expert it is expected that he will submit the report and he will also be examined either on commission or in open Court at the instance of the party concerned. It must not be overlooked that the handwriting; expert is after all a witness of a particular party, and the expert could occupy no other role except that of a witness on the side of the defendant in this case. In these circumstances it is impossible to justify the order of the lower Court compelling the defendant to choose a witness according to the dictation of the plaintiff.
7. It frequently happens that such applications for examination of the documents by handwriting experts are made at a late stage protracting and holding up the proceedings. In the instant case the Court below failed to appreciate that an old suit of 1962, is being protracted by such applications. When the disputed documents were sent to the handwriting expert for comparison on the earlier occasion one would expect the defendant to send as many admitted signatures as he may desire, so that the examination and scrutiny of the documents would be finished once and for all. Encouraging such repeated applications would only protract and delay the trial of the suit and should be discountenanced. When the matter goes back to the Subordinate Judge he must consider whether in his discretion this indulgence should be given to the defendant at this belated stage.
8. Repeated instances have come to the notice of this Court when applications are lightly made for sending original documents on which suits are filed, like promissory notes and mortgage bonds, to the handwriting experts, the Court itself losing the custody of the documents. Receipts containing signatures, the genuineness of which are in dispute are similarly sent to handwriting experts. I am clearly of the opinion that this is a highly objectionable and a very bad procedure. Under no circumstances should a Court permit or allow the documents to go out of its custody, as such an evil practice is attendant with various risks which are too obvious to be mentioned. In the case of enquiries by Commissioners or proceedings by Receivers, who are officers of Court, they are permitted to have access to documents, as they are under the direct control, supervision and jurisdiction of the Courts which appoint them, and there is thus ample safeguard when original documents are taken by the Commissioners or the Receivers. In my view the proper procedure in such cases would be only to permit the handwriting expert to inspect the document in the Court premises in the presence of some responsible officer of the Court, and also if necessary permit the expert to have photographic copies of documents in the presence of the responsible officer of the Court. Any lapse in taking the necessary safeguards in this direction may result in miscarriage of justice, besides creating complications.
9. Subject to these observations the Revision Petition is allowed. Interlocutory Application No. 850 of 1964, is remanded for fresh disposal. There shall be no order as to costs.