01 May 2020

Photocopy of documents can not be impounded by civil court

Suit for eviction of tenant - tenant in his evidence produced photocopy of rent agreement - Landlord denied the same and objected - notice to produce the document was issued, but, landlord denied the very existence of rent agreement - document is not exhibited - Appellate court  impounded the photocopy of agreement to the payment of requisite stamp duty and penalty thereon and further ordered that after payment of the requisite stamp duty and penalty on the said document it be exhibited for the collateral purpose.

   Section 2(l) of the said Act, defines "instrument" and it reads as follows :
"instrument" includes every document by which any right or liability is, or purports to be created, transferred, limited, extended, extinguished or recorded, but does not include a bill of exchange, cheque, promissory note, bill of lading, letter of credit, policy of insurance, transfer of share, debenture, proxy and receipt;"

Photocopy-not-be-impounded   A perusal of the said definition makes it clear that an "instrument" under the said Act is a document by which any right or liability is created or extinguished. Such a document would necessarily be the original of the said document and in this context, when Section 32(A) of the said Act is perused, it refers to "instrument" of conveyance, exchange, gift, etc. In a situation, where there is a short fall in payment of stamp duty, the Collector of the District has to give the parties concerned a reasonable opportunity of being heard and then determine the difference of amount of duty payable along with penalty and on payment of such amounts, "instrument" received shall be returned to the officer or the person concerned.
   Section 33 of the said Act pertains to examination and impounding of instruments. This provision gives power to the competent authority to impound the "instrument" if it is found to be not duly stamped. The said provision repeatedly refers to the "instrument", which is under examination on the aspect of requisite stamp duty. Reading of the said provision does not in any manner indicate that a photo copy of an original document would qualify to be an "instrument" or that such photo copy could be impounded. [Para No.13]

   Therefore, the position of law appears to be absolutely clear to the effect that photo copy of a document cannot be treated as an "instrument" under Section 2(l) of the Maharashtra Stamps Act, 1958 and no order for impounding such document can be passed. Thus, the Court below erred in passing the impugned order directing that the document in question i.e. photo copy of alleged agreement dated 26/10/1999, was to be impounded for payment of requisite stamp duty and penalty thereon. [Para No.17]

Bombay High Court

Pradeep Shyamrao Kakirwar
Dr. Smt. Seema Arun Mankar

Decided on 27/04/2020

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