Thumb Impression Instead Of Signature Due To Illness

Law
01-Jul-2024
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When people are unable to sign checks or complete withdrawal forms because of illness or physical impairments, standard banking procedures become difficult. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has created guidelines that permit the use of thumb imprints in lieu of signatures in recognition of this. In order to prevent excessive hardship, this action is intended to guarantee that impacted account holders may continue to handle their banking needs. This article describes the precise circumstances and steps that allow a thumb imprint to be used in place of a signature, the paperwork needed to make this adjustment, and pertinent court rulings that support the use of thumb impressions in official transactions.

RBI Guidelines For Changing From Signature To Thumb Impression

According to RBI, an accountholder may use their thumb or toe impression for other banking purposes if they are too sick or unable to sign a check or be physically present in the bank.

Rules state that if they want to use a thumb impression on a check, they have to do it in front of two impartial witnesses who are known to the bank, one of whom has to be an employee of the bank.

The RBI urges banks to have two witnesses, at least one of whom must be a bank official, observe the accountholder mark their check or withdrawal form.

Circumstances Allowing Thumb Impressions Instead Of Signature

The circumstances that allow thumb impressions instead of signatures are mentioned in Section 5.7 in the Master Circular on Maintenance of Deposit Accounts - UCBs in the RBI guidelines, stating:

5.7. - Operation of bank accounts by Old/Sick/Incapacitated Customers.

5.7.1 - In order to facilitate old/sick/incapacitated bank customers to operate their bank accounts, the procedure as laid down in para 5.6.2 below may be followed. The cases of sick/old/incapacitated account holders fall into the following categories:

i. an account holder who is too ill to sign a cheque/cannot be physically present in the bank to withdraw money from his bank account but can put his/her thumb impression on the cheque/withdrawal form, and

ii. an account holder who is not only unable to be physically present in the bank but is also not even able to put his/her thumb impression on the cheque/withdrawal form due to certain physical defect/incapacity.

What Are The Documents Needed For Changing From Signature To Thumb Impression?

In India, it is customary for those who are illiterate, disabled, or for other reasons unable to sign to have their thumb impression substituted for their signature on official papers. Typically, the procedure entails submitting particular paperwork and adhering to specified administrative and legal requirements. The following broad specifications and paperwork are required for this change:

 

Application Letter

A formal application letter addressed to the concerned authority explaining the reason for the change from a signature to a thumb impression.

 

Identity Proof: A copy of a government-issued ID such as:

  1. Aadhaar Card
  2. Voter ID
  3. Passport
  4. PAN Card
  5. Driving License

 

Address Proof

  1. Utility bills (electricity, water, gas)
  2. Bank statement or passbook
  3. Ration card
  4. Aadhaar Card (if not already used as ID proof)

 

Photographs

  1. Recent passport-sized photographs.

 

Medical Certificate (if applicable)

If the change is due to a medical condition that prevents signing, a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner may be required.

 

Notarized Affidavit

A notarized affidavit stating the reason for the change, confirming the identity of the individual, and declaring that the thumb impression will be used in place of a signature moving forward.

Existing Documents: 

Copies of documents where the signature was previously used. These might include:

  1. Bank records
  2. Insurance policies
  3. Legal documents (e.g., property deeds, wills)
  4. Employment records
     

Actions to Take

  • Getting ready: Compile the necessary paperwork and draft the affidavit and application letter.
  • Notarization: Have a qualified notary public notarize the affidavit.
  • Submission: Send the application and supporting documentation to the appropriate body or organization (bank, government agency, etc.).
  • Verification: The relevant authorities will check the papers and could need more data or confirmation.
  • Approval: After verification, the authority will make the necessary updates to their records to reflect the thumb imprint instead of a signature.

It is recommended to enquire about any extra requirements or special processes that may apply to the particular institution or body.

How To Change From Signature To Thumb Impression Due To Illness?

The procedures listed below must be followed in order to modify your signature on file with a bank:

Get paperwork from your bank that changes your signature. Different signature change forms are used by banks. Your name, account number, customer ID, thumb impression, old and new signature specimens, information about witnesses and their signatures, and other details must be filled out.

In case the accountholder's signature does not match the previous specimen or they are unable to sign it, the bank has the right to request more documentation, including voter ID, PAN card, Aadhaar card, photograph, and a letter from a relevant public authority confirming your identification.

Within two to three days of the bank verifying the information, a new signature or thumb imprint is added to the bank's database.

Bank Procedure

Further, as per Section 5.7.2. In the Master Circular on Maintenance of Deposit Accounts - UCBs in the RBI guidelines, the banks may follow the following procedure to change the signature to thumb impression:

(i) Wherever a thumb or toe impression of the sick/old/incapacitated account holder is obtained, it should be identified by two independent witnesses known to the bank, one of whom should be a responsible bank official.

(ii) Where the customer cannot even put his/her thumb on impression and also would not be able to be physically present in the bank, a mark obtained on the cheque/withdrawal form which should be identified by two independent witnesses, one of whom should be a responsible bank official.

Additional Information

Further, information regarding the thumb impression validity from the Master Circular on Maintenance of Deposit Accounts - UCBs in the RBI guidelines is as follows:

Who can withdraw?

5.7.3 In such cases, the customer may be asked to indicate to the bank who would withdraw the amount from the bank on the basis of the cheque/withdrawal form as obtained above and that person should be identified by two independent witnesses. The person who would be actually drawing the money from the bank should be asked to furnish his signature to the bank.

No Hands Circumstance

5.7.4 In this context, according to an opinion obtained by the Indian Banks' Association from their consultant on the question of opening a bank account for a person who had lost both his hands and could not sign the cheque/withdrawal form, there must be physical contact between the person who is to sign and the signature or the mark put on the document. Therefore, in the case of a person who has lost both his hands, the signature can be by means of a mark. This mark can be placed by the person in any way. It could be the toe impression, as suggested.

Related Case Laws

Following is the case that discusses the issues of thumb impression and signatures:

Lachhmi Narain Singh (D) v. Sarjug Singh - Thumb Impression Validity

The fact that the literate individual who performed the canceling deed left his thumb impression rather than signed it does not cast doubt on its authenticity.

The thumb imprint left on a property transaction document rather than the signature of the signing party cannot be interpreted negatively, according to a bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hrishikesh Roy.

Everyone has a different thumb imprint, which is the essential feature of thumb impressions. Thumb impressions are almost tough to fake. As a result, the Court decided that it is not appropriate to draw negative conclusions about attaching a thumb imprint rather than signing property transaction paperwork.

Background: On September 14, 1960, Rajendra Singh signed a will for the benefit of Sarjug Singh, the petitioner. The executor, Sarjug Singh, the probate petitioner, and his sister Duler Kuer, the late Thakur Prasad Singh's wife, were left behind after he died in 1963.

In Sarjug Singh's case, the testator's wife passed away a long time ago, thus Rajendra Singh—who had no children—bequeathed his possessions to Sarjug Singh.

Shyam Sunder Kuer, also known as Raj Bansi Kuer, objected to the probate action that Sarjug Singh had started, claiming to be the testator's second wife and widow.

In opposition to the application, Khedaran Kuer asserted that she was the widow of Jamadar Singh, the late Jag Jitan Singh's son (brother of the testator Rajendra Singh).

The opponents claim that a recorded instrument dated February 2, 1963, revoked and annulled the will in favor of Sarjug Singh.

Sarjug Singh contended that the testator was unable to attend the Sub-Registrar's office on February 2, 1963, to complete the registered cancellation deed, due to his bad health and paralysis.

Additionally, he questioned the veracity of the testator's thumbprint on the will cancellation instrument, asserting that Rajendra Singh, an educated man, would not have placed his thumb impression there.

The testator's unstable health, the objectors' inability to provide the actual cancellation instrument, and the absence of the relevant witness were all recognized by the High Court. After giving this some thought, it was decided that the will cancellation deed should not be admitted into evidence.

In response to an appeal, the Supreme Court stated that the High Court had incorrectly assumed that the testator was incapable of being impersonated and that they should have gone to the Sub-Registrar's office to record the cancellation deed.

Regarding this, the Court observed that Sarjug Singh, the petitioner for probate, never objected to the relevant cancellation deed being accepted and marked in the trial court.

“Therefore, in the face of the Expert’s Report, when the Deed of Cancellation was marked without any objection before the trial Court, those cannot be treated as inadmissible and should have been accepted as genuine, particularly in view of the testimony of OW­3, OW­4, and OW­5, who stood firm on the execution of the registered revocation deed by the testator, Rajendra Singh,” the Court said.

In reference to the negative presumption against attaching a thumbprint, the highest court observed that Rajendra Singh's thumb impression, rather than his signature, was present on each of the four deeds he completed during his lifetime.

Therefore, just because the testator included his thumb impression, there is no reason to assume negatively about the cancellation deed's authenticity.

“Genuineness of the Cancellation deed cannot be doubted only due to the fact that same was not signed and Rajendra as a literate person, affixed his thumb impression. This is more so in this case since the testator’s thumb impression was proved to be genuine by the expert,” the judgment said.

The Court, therefore, allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the High Court.

Conclusion

For those unable to sign due to illness or physical incapacitation, the RBI's guidelines permitting thumb imprints in lieu of signatures offer a useful workaround. These standards guarantee that every customer's banking demands are satisfied fairly by providing a clear process and documentation requirements.