The Punjab and Haryana High Court recently directed a US based NRI to depose in a Punjab court through video chat feature of apps such as WhatsApp or Skype. The order was passed by a Single Judge bench comprising Justice Kuldip Singh.
The case, being heard by a Civil Judge (Junior Division) in Ludhiana district’s Samrala Court, concerns a dispute over ownership of some property between the petitioner, Mr. Sucha Singh and former Verka chairman Mr. Ajmer Singh, who is brother of former PWD Minister Sharanjit Singh Dhillon.
The Court had, in October, 2015, allowed video conferencing, and had directed Mr. Singh to locate a local authority where such facility is available, or approach the Indian Consulate for the same. He was further directed to make himself available during the Court working hours in India, and decide on a date which is mutually convenient to the Court and the Consulate or the Public Office.
However, Justice Singh now noted that approaching a public authority would be inconvenient because of the time difference. It then ruled that Video chat Apps can be utilised for the purpose, noting,
“I am of the view that the evidence of Sucha Singh who is party to the case is very material. Therefore, his evidence is required to be recorded. He is living in USA. Since, there is 12 hours difference of time, therefore, when it is a day time in India, there is night time in USA. Therefore, there will be a difficulty in approaching the Public Authority at night time to allow Video Conferencing facility. The Video Conferencing is now available at Computer and the Mobile and so many applications are available like Facetime, WhatsApp, Skype and other similar applications.”
It therefore opined that it was not necessary for Mr. Singh to approach the Consulate, and directed him to intimate the Trial Court about his availability for a video chat through one of these Apps. The same App would then be installed on any device by the Court.
Allowing the revision petition, it further directed, “The petitioner shall intimate the time and date when he will be available on such application to the Court within two weeks from today and thereafter, the Court shall fix the convenient date for examination and cross- examination of said Sucha Singh through Video Conferencing. The said witness shall be identified by the opposite party or any other person nominated by them.”