Section 111 in the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the good faith of a sale by a client to an attorney is in question in a suit brought by the client. The burden of proving the good faith of the transaction is on the attorney.
Section 111 is a general provision and is not confined to contracts. There is a related provision in Section 16 of the Indian Contract Act. Section 16 states in sub section (3) that the provision of Section 16 shall not affect the provision of Section 111 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
It is general and was applicable to all transactions while Section 16 is confined to contracts. Section 111 placed the burden of proof on the person who was in a position of confidence whereas Section 16 of the Contract Act defined ‘undue influence’ and sub section (3) thereof required that initially it must be established that the contract, on the face of it or on the evidence adduced, was unconscionable, and only then the burden would shift to the other side.
It lays down certain specific conditions that define the party upon which the burden of proof lies. These provisions envisage the exceptions to the doctrine of “Innocent until Proven Guilty”. These enumerated conditions go against the doctrine by shifting the onus onto the accused to prove innocence, as opposed to the prosecution proving guilt.
It is necessary to understand that we need to account for the position of the person in confidence. Yes it may seem that this provision is against the fundamental right of the attorney but the law has to protect the interest of the client as well. Or in another example- The good faith of a sale by a son just come of age to a father is in question in a suit brought by the son. The burden of proving the good faith of the transaction is on the father. We need to protect the son here from any undue influence or any fraudulent transactions since the father is in the place of dominate the son. And hence, the onus is on the father or the attorney to prove that the transaction is in good faith and both the parties are bona fide.
As it was seen in the case- P. Venkata Raja Rao v. R. N. Krishna Veni and others, “the main contention of the defendants is that admittedly the plaintiff is elder son of the settlers and from the admission of the plaintiff itself clearly proved that he was dominating in bringing out the transaction and therefore, as per provisions of Section 111 of the Indian Evidence Act, the plaintiff has to prove that settlement deed has not been brought into existence on account of domination. But the plaintiff failed to prove the above said fact and therefore, the settlement deed cannot be a valid document.”
Hence, where, a person who is in a position to dominate the will of another, enters into a transaction with him, and the transaction appears, on the face of it, to be unconscionable, the burden of proving that such contract was not induced by undue influence shall lie upon the person in a position of dominance. Moreover, it was held in the case- Jawahar Lal Wali v/s J. and K 1993 SCC court held that “where a person who claims to have acted in a good faith has to appear in person before the court to establish his claim through examination and cross-examination. The opinion and feelings of other witnesses may not be sufficient on that point”.
Therefore, Section 111A of Indian Evidence Act is not against the principle of criminal jurisprudence. Also it is not against the fundamental right since, this provision is just looking out for the person in the position of diffidence.
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