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Report No. 69

Chapter 44

Evidence for Interpretation of Documents

Sections 93-100

44.1. Introductory.-

The exclusive and conclusive character of documentary evidence is dealt with, in sections 91-92, which we have so far considered. The rules in these two sections do not come in the way of evidence of facts necessary to be introduced for the purpose of interpreting the document; such evidence does not displace or modify the document, but explains it1. Certain guidelines for dealing with such evidence are to be found in sections 93-100. Some of these rules are permissive, while others are exclusionary.

1. Woodroffe.

Section 93

44.2. Section 93 enacts an exclusionary rule, and provides that when the language used in a document is, "on its face", ambiguous or defective, evidence may not be given of facts which would show its meaning or supply its defects. For example-as the illustrations to the section tell us-

A agrees, in writing, to sell a horse to B, for "Rs. 1,000 or Rs. 1,500". Evidence cannot be given to show which price was to be given. Similarly, if a deed contains blanks, evidence cannot be given of facts which would show how they were meant to be filled. The reason is that these are 'patent ambiguities' as is indicated by the words 'on its face'. Patent ambiguities cannot be removed by extrinsic evidence. The section does not appear to need any change.

Section 94

44.3. Another exclusionary rule is to be found in section 94. Under that section, when language used in a document is plain in itself, and when it applies accurately to existing facts, evidence may not be given to show that it was not meant to apply to such facts. The illustration to the section illustrates this principle-

"A sells to B, by deed, 'my estate at Rampur containing 100 bighas'. A has an estate at Rampur containing 100 bighas. Evidence may not be given of the fact that the estate meant to be sold was one situated at a different place and of a different size."

This section deals with a case where there is no ambiguity-patent1 or latent2. and therefore no need to modify the terms of the document. We have no comments on this section.

1. Section 93.

2. Sections 96-97.

Section 95

44.4. In contrast with the two preceding sections, section 95 contains a permissive provision. Language which fails to apply to external facts, though not ambiguous in itself, is dealt with in the section. When language used in a document is plain in itself, but is unmeaning in reference to existing facts, evidence may be given to show that it was used in a peculiar sense.

Thus, as the illustration to the section says-

"A sells to B, by deed, 'my house in Calcutta'. A had no house in Calcutta, but it appears that he had a house at Howrah, of which B had been in possession since the execution of the deed.1

These facts may be proved to show that the deed related to the house at How rah."

The principal object of the section is to enable evidence properly establishing the connection between the document and the external reality to be given. The section does not seem to need any change.

1. Contrast section 94.

Section 96

44.5. Section 96 contains another permissive provision. When the facts are such that the language used might have been meant to apply to any one, and could not have been meant to apply to more than one, of several persons or things, evidence may, under the section, be given of facts which show which of those persons or things it was intended to apply to. This is illustrated by two illustrations-

If A agrees to sell to B, for Rs. 1,000 "my white horse", and A has two white horses, evidence may be given of facts which show which of them was meant. Similarly, if A agree to accompany B to "Haidarabad", "evidence may be given of facts showing whether Haidarabad in the Dekkhan or Haidarabad in Sindhu was meant".

44.6. Latent ambiguities.-

The cases to which section 96 applies are cases of latent ambiguities. In this respect, section 96 forms a contrast to section 93, which dealt with patent ambiguities. The situation in section 96 is really analogous to that dealt with in section 95. In both cases, disharmony with reality arises, in relation to a document. In section 95, the disharmony arises because of incompleteness of the documentary language. In section 96, the disharmony arises because of latent ambiguities, in the documentary language. Such ambiguity arises from facts external to the documents and these facts create a question not solved by the document itself. The section may be left as it is.

Indian Evidence Act, 1872 Back

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