Parties cannot claim right to obtain certified copies of legible copies of depositions

Kerala High Court

Kerala High Court: While deciding an application seeking a direction to furnish certified copies of  legible copies of the documents and depositions of witnesses, the Court categorically held that the parties are not entitled to certified copies of readable copy  prepared under Rule 262 of the Criminal Rules of Practice. They are however entitled to the certified copies of the records subject to the Rules.

The petitioner-appellant had sought directions to the Registry to furnish certified legible copies of the depositions  in CC No. 4 of 2001, on the file of the Special Judge (SPE/CBI), Ernakulam on the ground that they were not fully readable and he would be prejudiced and handicapped unless supplied with the certified copies and effective defending of the case would not be possible.

The High Court Circular No. 27/70 relating to preparation of legible copy of illegible depositions provided for preparation of legible copies where the handwriting of the Presiding Officer recording the same was not easily readable/illegible. The Court held that the certified copy of a readable copy is not a direct copy of the deposition, but is only a copy of the copy. Evidently, certified copy of the readable copy cannot be issued.

The Court observed that  Rule 128(1) of the Rules of the High Court of Kerala, 1971 provided  that a person is entitled to obtain “a copy of any proceeding or document filed in or in the custody of the court”, hence only a copy of the proceeding or a document filed in or in the custody of the court alone can be issued.

As for the contention that readable copies of depositions formed part of the judicial records as they relate to judicial proceeding, the Court held that as per Rule 261 of the Criminal Rules of Practice, 1982 the trial court shall submit copies of depositions and documents to  the revisional or appellate court. Readable copies were prepared under Rule 262 when the originals are not easily decipherable while submitting the original records under Section 366 CrPC  for appeal, revision or review. It was prepared after the proceedings in the trial court were over. Evidently these readable copies are not copies of a proceeding or a document filed in or in the custody of the court and will not fall within the scope of Rule 128.  Further, certified copies can be issued only in relation to those records or documents filed in or in the custody of the court and not of a copy of the original.

The Court observed that Rule 222 of the Criminal Rules of Practice was identical to Rule 128 of High Court Rules, dealing with copy of application of documents and copy of proceeding or document filed or in the custody of the court. Rules 225 and 229 eminently showed that certified copies of each and every part of the judicial file cannot be issued. The certified copy of the document can be issued only if it relates to a proceeding or is a document filed in or forming part of judicial record. The Court observed that the provisions of Chapter 8 of the High Court Rules regarding inspection and search of records were well open to the litigants.  [J. Rajmohan Pillai  v.  CBI, Crl. MA No. 5909 of 2015 in Criminal Appeal  No. 2951 of 2008, decided on July 18, 2016]

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