Intendment of Order XVIII Rule 3-A CPC explained – Litigant should not be permitted to bide time and fill in lacuna by appearing in witness box after examination of other witnesses: Bombay HC

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Rohit B. Deo, J. quashed the order of the trial court whereby plaintiff’s application under Order XVIII Rule 3-A CPC seeking permission to examine his power of attorney (his son) he himself steps into the box.

The petitioners were the defendants in the special civil suit instituted by the respondent-plaintiff seeking a decree of damages for defamation. The application was predicated on the assertion that the power of attorney holder was personally acquainted with the facts. The averment in the application was that the plaintiff was aged 80 years and suffering from various ailments. It was also averred that no prejudice would be caused to the defendants if the son of the plaintiff is examined before the plaintiff. The defendants opposed the application, inter alia, denying that the plaintiff was suffering from various ailments. However, by the order impugned, the trial court allowed the plaintiff’s application under Order XVIII Rule 3-A. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed by the defendant.

The High Court, after considering the facts and circumstances of the case, observed that the legislative mandate is that ordinarily where a litigant himself wishes to appear as a witness, he shall so appear before any other witness in his behalf has been examined. Rule 3-A confers a discretion on the Court to permit, for reasons to be recorded, the plaintiff to appear as his own witness at a later stage. However, implicit in the statutory scheme is the rider that the normal rule may be deviated from only in exceptional circumstances and for reasons recorded which must sustain judicial review. “The legislative object of bringing on statute Rule 3-A was to ensure that a litigant should not be permitted to bide his time and to fill in the lacuna or cover the loopholes after the other witnesses are examined.” In the matter at hand, the Court found it difficult to believe that the plaintiff was suffering from various ailments to such an extent that he was not in a position to step into the witness box. Therefore, the Court held that the order impugned militate against the object and intendment of Order XVIII Rule 3-A, which was accordingly quashed. [Sanj Dainik Lokopchar v. Gokulchand Govindlal Sananda,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 3336, decided on 11-10-2018]

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