18 Dec 2009

Insufficient/improper execution of Vakalatnamas: Delhi High Court lays guidelines

Taking note of the irregularities being committed by the lawyers/advocates in filing of vakalatnamas (power of attorney authorizing the advocate to appear on behalf of the litigant), the Delhi High Court in a writ petition (which could properly be titled as a PIL) has issued directions to be adhered by the lawyers, Registry and lower courts in as much as the filing of vakalatnamas are concerned.

The High Court noted that "Order III of the Code of Civil Procedure contains the legislative provisions how appearance have to be entered on behalf of the parties by recognized agents or by their counsel." Further reference was also made to decision of the Supreme Court in Uday Shankar Triyar v. Ram Kalewar Prasad Singh & Anr. (AIR 2006 SC 269) where various in the vakalatnamas being filed by Members of the Bar were pointed out by the Apex Court. The Supreme Court in its 2006 decision had stated as under;
21. We may at this juncture digress and express our concern in regard to the manner in which defective Vakalatnamas are routinely filed in courts. Vakalatnama, a species of Power of Attorney, is an important document, which enables and authorizes the pleader appearing for a litigant to do several acts as an Agent, which are binding on the litigant who is the principal. It is a document which creates the special relationship between the lawyer and the client. It regulates and governs the extent of delegation of authority to the pleader and the terms and conditions governing such delegation. It should, therefore, be properly filled/attested/accepted with care and caution. Obtaining the signature of the litigant on blank Vakalatnamas and filling them subsequently should be avoided. We may take judicial notice of the following defects routinely found in Vakalatnamas filed in courts:
(a) Failure to mention the name/s of the person/s executing the Vakalatnama, and leaving the relevant column blank; 
(b) Failure to disclose the name, designation or authority of the person executing the Vakalatnama on behalf of the grantor (where the Vakalatnama is signed on behalf of a company, society or body) by either affixing a seal or by mentioning the name and designation below the signature of the executant (and failure to annex a copy of such authority with the Vakalatnama). 
(c) Failure on the part of the pleader in whose favour the Vakalatnama is executed, to sign it in token of its acceptance. 
(d) Failure to identify the person executing the Vakalatnama or failure to certify that the pleader has satisfied himself about the due execution of the Vakalatnama. 
(e) Failure to mention the address of the pleader for purpose of service (in particular in cases of outstation counsel).
(f) Where the Vakalatnama is executed by someone for self and on behalf of someone else, failure to mention the fact that it is being so executed. For example, when a father and the minor children are parties, invariably there is a single signature of the father alone in the Vakalatnama without any endorsement/statement that the signature is for 'self and as guardian of his minor children'. Similarly, where a firm and its partner, or a company and its Director, or a Trust and its trustee, or an organisation and its office-bearer, execute a Vakalatnama, invariably there will be only one signature without even an endorsement that the signature is both in his/her personal capacity and as the person authorized to sign on behalf of the corporate body/firm/ society/organisation. 
(g) Where the Vakalatnama is executed by a power-of-attorney holder of a party, failure to disclose that it is being executed by an Attorney-holder and failure to annex a copy of the power of attorney; 
(h) Where several persons sign a single vakalatnama, failure to affix the signatures seriatim, without mentioning their serial numbers or names in brackets. (Many a time it is not possible to know who have signed the Vakalatnama where the signatures are illegible scrawls); 
(i) Pleaders engaged by a client, in turn, executing vakalatnamas in favour of other pleaders for appearing in the same matter or for tiling an appeal or revision. (It is not uncommon in some areas for mofussil lawyers to obtain signature of a litigant on a vakalatnama and come to the seat of the High Court, and engage a pleader for appearance in a higher court and execute a Vakalatnama in favour of such pleader). 
We have referred to the above routine detects, as Registries/ Offices do not verify the Vakalatnamas with the care and caution they deserve. Such failure many a time leads to avoidable complications at later stages, as in the present case. The need to issue appropriate instructions to the Registries/Offices to properly check and verify the Vakalatnamas filed requires emphasis. Be that as it may.
In the aforesaid background the High Court agreed with the submissions of the petitioner and issued directions as under;
We direct that henceforth while scrutinizing the vakalatnamas filed, be it in the Registry of this Court, the Subordinate Courts in Delhi or the Tribunals, Authorities and Foras in Delhi, failure/defect in the vakalatnamas, noted in sub paras 'a' to 'e' of Para 21 of the decision of the Supreme Court in Uday Shankar's case (supra), shall be treated as a deficiency in the execution of the vakalatnamas making liable the said vakalatnama to be returned. Further, in the situation contemplated by sub paras 'f' to 'i' of Para 21 of the decision in Uday Shankar's case (supra), vakalatnamas not executed in the manner indicated in the said sub paras shall also be treated as a deficiency in the execution of the vakalatnama, making liable said vakalatnama to be returned. 
14. We are passing the directions in public interest for the reason even we have come across vakalatnamas which are filed in a most lackadaisical manner. Many a times, precious judicial time is lost in determining whether a proper representation is being made under a proper authority.
Have a look at the decision.

Post-Script Rejoinder

After having written this post we got a number of request to provide a sample vakalatnama. We are therefore providing a link to the website of the Delhi High Court which provides a sample vakalatnama.

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