Sometimes the mere text of a provision is incapable of informing the reader of the purpose behind its existence, despite the textual import being free from ambiguities. One such provision which I recently paid greater attention to is Rule 3A of Order 18 of the CPC.
The Rule is titled “Party to Appear Before Other Witnesses” and it reads as follows:
“Where a party wishes to appear as a witness, he shall so appear before any other witness on his behalf has been examined, unless the Court, for reasons to be recorded, permits him to appear as his own witness at a later stage”
In plain and simple terms, this Rule requires any party who intends to testify, to appear before any other witness who may depose on his behalf. The reason for imposition of such a condition, on the face of it, was unclear to me when I read it for the first time. It took a judgment of the A.P High Court for me to deconstruct the Rule.
The object of the Rule is to prevent a party from using his testimony as a filler to plug in the loopholes in the testimonies of other witnesses who have deposed on his behalf. This is the sentiment that guides the Rule.
However, does this Rule preclude a party from deposing merely because he did not volunteer with his testimony prior to the rest of his witnesses? No. The Rule does not contain a caveat which says “Before the commencement of examination of witnesses and before any other witness on his behalf have been examined, a party who wishes to appear as witness shall inform the Court oh his intention to appear on his own behalf ”.
Therefore, it is permissible for a party to put forward his version of the story after all his witnesses have been examined. This is, however, subject to the Court’s permission and satisfaction that the party is up to no mischief, and that the party does not intend to make up for the mistakes of other witnesses. That said, the Court has to record its reasons for granting permission to the party to testify after others.