Section 47 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Explanation:

A person is said to be acquainted with the handwriting of another person when he has seen that person write, or when he has received documents purporting to be written by that person in answer to documents written by himself or under his authority and addressed to that person, or when, in the ordinary course of business, documents purporting to be written by that person have been habitually submitted to him.

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Illustrations:

The question is, whether a given letter is in the underwriting of A, a merchant in London.

 is a merchant in Calcutta, who has written letters addressed to A and received letters purporting to be written by him. Ñ is B’s clerk, whose duty it was to examine and file B’s correspondence. D is B’s broker, to whom  habitually submitted the letters purporting to be written by A for the purpose of advising him thereon.

The opinions of Â, Ñ and D on the question whether the letter is in the handwriting of A are relevant, though neither Â, Ñ nor D ever saw A write.

Comments:

Principle:

Section 47 deals with the opinion of persons who are not experts but the opinion of such person is made admissible. When the court has to determine the question as to particular handwriting of any person, it can admit the opinion of an expert, but at the same time it may also admit the opinion of a person who is acquainted with the handwriting of that person. The opinion evidence of non-expert is relevant only if the condition laid down in Section 47 is proved. In what manner a person may be acquainted with handwriting of other person has been given in the explanation appended to the section.

Proof of handwriting:

When a document is written or signed by a certain person the court may follow any one of the methods for proving handwriting as mentioned in the explanation. The explanation gives a list of persons who may be said to be acquainted with the handwriting of another. The person is he:

1. Who has seen the person write, or

2. Who has received documents purporting to have been written by that person in answer to document written by the witness, or

3. Who has in ordinary course of business received documents purporting to have been written by that person or such documents have been habitually submitted to him.

According to Section 47 the opinion of person who is acquainted with the handwriting of another is relevant. Thus the statement of person in whose presence the writing was made or the person who is habitually receiving letters from that person is relevant. If a person is familiar with this writing is also relevant. But, the conviction cannot be based on the opinion of handwriting expert. The opinion of handwriting expert can be relied upon when supported by other interest of evidence and corroborates the circumstance evidence.

Sections 45, 47, 67 and 73 jointly prescribe the following methods of proving handwriting, viz.:

1. By evidence of the writer himself (Section 67).

2. By expert opinion (Section 45).

3. By evidence of person who is acquainted with handwriting (Section 47).

4. By comparison of the handwriting in question with the handwriting of an alleged writer (Section 73).

Person acquainted with handwriting:

Under the section any person acquainted with one’s handwriting means that he has seen the person write or he has knowledge by means of correspondence or has habitual submission of documents purporting to be the handwriting of that person. “Therefore, before a witness qualifies himself to state about the authorship of a writing he must depose as to how he has been acquainted with writing of that person whose writing he tries to prove.” It must be proved that the witness is acquainted with the handwriting of a person. It has been held that the evidence under this section is much more valuable than that a handwriting expert. When the evidence of the pharmacist was not questioned and he stated that he was acquainted with the handwriting of the Doctor who issued the injury report, that evidence is sufficient. When the signature on cheque is disputed the court should be assisted by expert opinion or by any other circumstances to prove the execution of document.

Ex visu scrimptions and Ex scripts olium visis:

The witness either has seen that the person write or he is acquainted with handwriting without seeing a person write. In case of ex visu scriptions “the rule with respect of proof is clear and settled, namely that a person who has even seen the supposed writer of a document write, so as to have thereby acquired a standard in his own mind of the general character of the handwriting of that party, is a competent witness.”

In ex scriptis olium “the document has come to the observation of the witness without seeing any person in the art of writing.” When a person has received letters or documents of the writer whose handwriting the witness is acquainted the presumption is that the letter or document is genuine. “But the decisions generally establish the proposition that the rule is not changed by the mere fact that the one receiving the letters has acted upon them, although such acts may be a part of a chain of evidence from which the acknowledgement or approval of the supposed another may be inferred.”

47A. Opinion as to digital signature when relevant:

When the Court has to form an opinion as to the digital signature of any person, the opinion of the Certifying Authority which has issued the Digital Signature Certificate is a relevant fact.

Comments:

This section deals with the relevancy of expert opinion as to genuineness of digital signature. “When the court has to form an opinion as to the digital signature of any person, the opinion of the certifying authority which has issued the digital signature certificate is a relevant fact.”