Case: – Mohammed Abdul Wahid v/s Nilofer and another; Civil Appeal No. 8146 of 2023
In a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of document production during cross-examination in civil trials, emphasizing the equality of treatment between parties and witnesses. The case, involved a challenge to a Bombay High Court ruling that restricted the direct production of documents during cross-examination to confront only non-party witnesses.
The Supreme Court, overturned the High Court’s decision, highlighting that no distinction should be drawn between a party to a suit and a witness in this context. The dispute revolved around interpretations of Order VII, Rule 14(4), Order VIII, Rule 1A(4), and Order XIII, Rule 1(3) of the Code of Civil Procedure 1908.
The High Court’s view, deeming a plaintiff or defendant unable to be confronted with fresh documents during their cross-examination, was deemed unsustainable by the Supreme Court. The apex court held that both parties and witnesses stand on the same footing when providing evidence, rejecting the notion of a rigid differentiation between them.
The key issues addressed by the Supreme Court were:
a) Whether there is a difference between a party to a suit and a witness in the Code of Civil Procedure, particularly when the party is a witness in their own cause.
b) Whether the law, including Order VII Rule 14, Order VIII Rule 1-A, and Order XIII Rule 1, prohibits the party undertaking cross-examination of another party from producing documents during the process.
The Supreme Court concluded that there is no inherent difference between a party to a suit and a witness for evidentiary purposes. It affirmed that the freedom to produce documents during cross-examination serves the interests of both parties and witnesses, facilitating the complete presentation of the truth.
The Apex Court, in authoring the judgment, emphasized that the ultimate purpose of the trial is the discovery of truth. The ruling clarified that the production of documents for both parties and witnesses during cross-examination is permissible within the law. However, it specified that such confrontation without prior inclusion of the document with the plaint or written statement is limited to the cross-examination phase of a civil suit.
This decision by the Supreme Court ensures a more equitable and transparent legal process, emphasizing the equal treatment of parties and witnesses in the presentation of evidence during cross-examination.

Author of this article:
Adv. Ravish Bhatt,
Partner, R&D Law Chambers,
Dual Qualified Lawyer Solicitor | International Tax Affiliate

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