An interesting hypothetical case was referred to me today on the acceptability of the Section 65B certificate and its impact when a person forges a document, scans it and presents a section 65B certified print copy of the scanned document for admission in a Court.
The query is that ” If the original is not required to be presented”, then the forged document becomes admissible and it becomes difficult to prove the forgery. Therefore does it put the person who is disputing the forged document in a difficult position in law because of Section 65B?
The query is interesting. I am presenting my views on the query and be happy to receive other views.
The answer to the query requires application of both Section 65B interpretation as well as appreciation of paper evidence. Hence it is complicated.
In a practical situation, the presenter of the Section 65B certified Computer output (Presenter) may present the computer output in paper form or in electronic form. If it is in electronic form and in good resolution, the image can be viewed by the signature verifier and a view can be taken just as we verify an ink signature on paper though some of the parameters of verification such as the ink absorption on paper, overlapping, pressure may become little difficult on the scanned image. But parameters like “angle”, “Size”, “Strokes” “The dashes and dots” etc are visible even in the scanned image. A good signature verifier can take a reasonably accurate view of the forgery.
However if the image is of low resolution or it is presented in a print form with unclear printing, then verification is as challenging as when we have a thumb print on paper with smudges.
Normally, a signature verifier refuses to provide a positive opinion unless the image is clear enough and this will apply to a “Verifier of an image of a signature in electronic form on a scanned document”.
It is necessary for us to appreciate that admissibility of electronic document based on the Section 65B certificate is a matter which is different from admitting the signature of a person in the document which is scanned.
In the case of a paper document, if a person produces a forged paper, the signatory is not objecting to the content per-se but only to the signature. It is quite possible that he may say, I am aware that this document was given to me for signature but I refused to sign. Hence “Admission of the document” as evidence does not automatically admit the “Signature within”.
When a signed document is presented by one party and it is challenged as a “Forgery”, it is the responsibility of the presenter to produce additional evidence including the handwriting expert’s opinion to prove the signature. Similarly, in the case of the Section 65B certified document also, though the document as a whole is admitted as evidence at the request of the presenter if the Section 65B certificate is satisfactory, the Court may still expect the presenter to prove that the signature as it appears is that of the person to whom he is attributing it to. This means that the onus of getting a handwriting expert to confirm the signature lies with the presenter.
If the document is unclear, the handwriting expert may refuse to give a conclusive proof. If he gives a negative report and the document is section 65B certified by a person who is not a “Trusted third party”, then the certifier needs to have a credibility of his own as otherwise he may be charged for perjury by the Court.
A professional Section 65B certifier will not certify a doubtful document and take this risk and a professional handwriting expert will not take the risk of a positive identification based on unclear document.
Hence Section 65B certificate alone though makes the document admissible for trial does not guarantee the “Genuineness” to be taken as established.
The Supreme Court in the Basheer judgement was very clear in making a distinction between “Admissibility” and “Genuineness” and it comes in handy to protect the honest person in the above case whose signature is forged as alleged.
Hence Section 65B does not in any way create an adverse impact in the situation.