29 Oct 2009

Video recording of wills to be promoted: High Court

Dealing with the case of inheritance of property on the basis of a will (technically called a 'Probate proceeding') the Delhi High Court in a recent decision has held that video recording of wills not only further the case of the parties but are also a reliance medium to prove the genuineness of a will. Noting the fact that even though the will was made (and recorded on video in 1985) when the Information Technology Act (of 2000) was not even in picture, the High Court found it a convenient way of determining the probate proceedings. The High Court even went ahead to give directions to the lower authorities to promote such video recording of wills such that inheritance disputes can be settled faster and without much doubt. 

Speaking on the legality and admissiability of video recording of will as evidence, the High Court stated;
Before concluding this Court would like to observe that the making of the video of the execution of the last Will in the present case has made the task of the Court easier in arriving at its conclusion as to its genuineness. Although the Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act) was not in operation when the video recording was made of the execution and attestation of the last Will, the evidence by way of video recording is admissible for proving the Will in question. The Supreme Court has in State of Maharashtra v. Prafull B. Desai AIR 2003 SC 2053 recognized in principle, although in the context of a trial, that evidence by way of video recording is admissible. This has been followed also in Sube Singh v. State of Haryana AIR 2006 SC 1117 and Rajendra Singh Rana v. Swami Prasad Maurya AIR 2007 SC 1305.
Declaring the legal position as aforesaid, the High Court went on to examine the practical significance of such video recordings and direct the lower authorities to initiate steps towards undertaking such recordings as under;
Under the provisions of the IT Act there should be no difficulty in Courts acting upon and accepting as evidence video or digital recordings of the execution of Wills subject to compliance with the requirement of Section 65B of the Evidence Act, 1872. This Court would like to impress upon the Sub-Registrars that with the availability of inexpensive gadgets like webcams, portable and desk top computers, and connectivity through internet, it should be possible to make a video recording of the entire process of execution of a Will at the time of registration (by focussing on the executor of the Will, and the attesting witnesses, and also the administering of certain standard questions by the registering authority to the Executor). It should be possible to have a certified copy of such video/digital recording clip (with the date and time embedded thereon) issued to the parties concerned. There should also be no difficulty in storing in hard disks (with back ups at different secure locations) the recordings of such digital video clips (with date and time embedded) for easy retrieval. This will eliminate to a large extent questions of genuineness or the capacity of the testator to make the Will. If not already done, a protocol should be developed in this regard (along with a manual of instructions to the Registering authorities) by the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) in consultation with the National Informatics Centre.

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