Signature on blank order-sheets – A wrong practice

It is a common experience that in proceedings before Judicial and quasi-judicial authorities, in certain cases, the appearing advocates and authorised representatives are asked to put their signatures on blank order-sheets. The authorities or their readers record the orders as per their convenience. This process though not authorised by the rule of law, is very common. The practice shows utmost faith in authority that they will not misuse the discretion.

The problem occurs when the authorities makes reverse orders. In a case, the presiding judge adjourned the case because he was unable to pass judgement, but his order-sheet reflected that parties have sought times for further arguments. In another case, an Income Tax Authority had opted signature of advocates and recorded arguments which was not made before him. In yet another case, a magistrate recorded in blank order-sheet that separate order is being passed before signing order-sheet, but order was passed after one day.

The Income Tax Appellate Tribunal, Agra in the case of Samagra Mahila Vikas Samiti vs. Commissioner of Income Tax, reported in (2014) 23 Income Tax Judgement 204 has made observation as follows –

“The advocates/members of bar are recognized as officers of the court. Therefore, they are expected to maintain their status and decorum in the court. They are not expected to sign blank order-sheet as admitted by Shri S.M. Sinha, Advocate. Shri S.M. Sinha, Advocate is, therefore, directed not to indulge in any type of malpractice in future otherwise his conduct would have been reported to the State Bar Council for taking disciplinary action against him as per law.”

Another aspect of this approach is very serious. In Indian Penal Code, 1890, Chapter XVIII based on offences relating to documents and other property marks. In certain cases, opting signature of advocates and / or parties on blank order-sheet and thereafter writing, typing or printing order comes within Forgery as defined in Section 463 of Indian Penal Code. In the Rule of Law, no one is superior than law. The act of a judicial authority directing the advocate to sign a blank order-sheet is itself a type of criminal contempt of court under the Contempt of Court Act, 1971.

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