In a country which is speeding up on becoming a paperless economy and Digital
banking becoming the new normal, receiving an unsigned business
letter/Receipt/Advice/invoice bearing particulars "This letter/Report Advice
is computer generated and therefore does not require any signature
", is also
being routed by the furnisher of the document; which, when inspected under the
law might certainly become spurious and illusory and the burden would eventually
fall upon the oblivion receiver of the receipt.
Documents that are of confidential nature and require signature to prove their
authenticity and legality would fail in doing so and prove to be disastrous in
matters of dispute.
With intense and uncontrollable practice of using the blooming catchphrase
people have blindly adopted it to be legally acceptable ignorant to the laws
pertaining to the same, to say; more specifically the Information Technology
Banks seem to be showcasing a practice of loose system of functionality in their
own domain where utmost professionalism must be the key. People put their trust
in these institutions not only because of their responsibility but also the
authenticity their work carries and the relationship between them and the
Services being rendered such as e-fixed deposit and e-mailing e-FD receipts in a
PDF form as attachments to depositors/addressee using password protection
mechanism for email attachments which the depositors inherently presume them to
carry a digital sanction.
The originator of the e-receipt can also use a facsimile signature which is
basically a copy of the original signature that can work in place of the
original signature and holds itself to be legally enforceable.
'Ignorantia juris quod quisque scire tenetur non excusat
' - Ignorance of
the law, which everybody is supposed to know, does not constitute an excuse. For
instance, if a case is brought before the court by the
receiver/depositor/customer against the bank about the validity of the cheque or
other significant financial tool which could not be enforced consequent to their
failure in holding the documents as legally binding against the bank due to
unsigned receipt/legend there's high probability of banks escaping safely by
bringing up the common practice of fellow organizations in the economy in front
the court of law that has been accommodated with open arms in the industrial
arena leaving the victim without a judicial remedy.
The Hon'ble High Court, in the case of Kusum Durga Kand v. Karla Papers P
(2012) filed under Sec 96 of CPC took Bills as a corroborative evidence
to arrive at the conclusion that the disputed goods are not supplied since the
bills under dispute do not bear the signatures or the initials of any of the
employees of the respondent/plaintiff.
A similar view was taken in another case where The National Commission pointed
out that in order to establish deficiency in service, it would be necessary to
produce the goods receipts. The Commission also observed that the bills, which
were computer generated, did not bear the signature of the consignee, there was
no evidence to establish the authenticity of the bills.
Thus, in order that documents have evidentiary value, they must be thoroughly
scrutinized to see they are properly prepared and signed.
The question arises why documentation requires a signature?
It is for the following arguments a document should carry a signature:
- It is important to check the legitimacy of the document.
- It's also important to keep a record of the document in an organization
to determine who drafted the document in future and when required which can
be looked into the database of the organization and therefore, the record of
the signatory can be determined.
Section 2(1) (ta) in The Information Technology Act, 2000 defines "electronic
signature" means authentication of any electronic record by a subscriber by
means of the electronic technique specified in the Second Schedule and includes
digital signature; we note that in the definition the word authentication is
used which means that an e-document containing an electronic signature carries
legal sanctity in the court of law.
Section 5 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 talks about Legal recognition
of electronic signature which says, that if any law provides that information or
any other matter shall be authenticated by affixing the signature or any
document shall be signed or bear the signature of any person, then,
notwithstanding anything contained in such law.
Such requirement shall be deemed to have been satisfied, if such information or
matter is authenticated by means of electronic signature affixed in such manner
as may be prescribed by the Central Government; which the banks in this case,
clearly do not seem to be following rather they continue to function
effortlessly keeping the stakeholders' trust and documents for a toss.
The particulars that carry the tag line "This is an electronically generated
report, hence does not require a signature
" and is only password protected
carry no evidentiary value and hence, not acceptable and legally binding against