Spouses Are Permitted To Provide Testimony On Behalf Of One Another In Civil Trials: Kerala High Court






Case Title: Smitha vs Anil Kumar

A single bench of Justice Kauser Edappagath of the Kerala High Court recently ruled that spouses are permitted to provide testimony for each other in civil case trials, in accordance with Section 120 of the Indian Evidence Act.

The bench emphasized that under Section 120 of the Indian Evidence Act, spouses are not only competent to testify about matters within their own knowledge but also those within their partner’s knowledge.

The bench said that it is evident from Section 120 that a spouse who is not a party to the litigation can act as a witness for their spouse who is a party. Section 120 allows a husband to testify in place of his wife and vice versa, even without a formal written authorization or power of attorney. Such a witness is entitled to provide evidence not only on matters they are aware of but also those known to their spouse.

The case involved a woman who had initiated a civil suit that was pending before a trial court. During the trial, the woman (the plaintiff in the trial court) had requested permission for her husband to testify or present evidence on her behalf. However, the trial court rejected this request, asserting that allowing someone to testify on behalf of another was not permissible and that the husband could only testify as a witness for the plaintiff.

Challenging this decision, the plaintiff filed an application before the High Court.

The plaintiff’s counsel argued that the trial court’s decision was erroneous as it disregarded Section 120 of the Indian Evidence Act, which expressly permits spouses to provide testimony for each other in civil proceedings.

The High Court was apprised that the husband was a crucial witness capable of offering pertinent evidence relevant to the case.

In its deliberation, the High Court referenced Section 120 of the Indian Evidence Act, which stipulates that In all civil proceedings, the parties to the suit, and the husband or wife of any party to the suit, shall be competent witnesses.

The High Court noted that this provision supersedes general procedural norms, enabling non-litigating spouses to testify in lieu of their litigating partners, even without the need for a power of attorney.

Consequently, the High Court disagreed with the trial court’s stance on this matter and annulled the order denying the plaintiff’s request for her husband to provide testimony on her behalf.

Accordingly, the bench set aside the trial court’s order.  

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