The term Vakalatnama refers to an advocate's power. But over the period, the courts have understood the phrase to refer to "a written document authorizing an advocate with a range of legal powers." However, Section 1A of The Power of Advocate Act of 1882 states unequivocally that a power of advocate is a legal document that gives someone the authority to act as the person's representative or agent. Although Vakalatnama is a procedure and a component of High Court regulations, it is not included in the Power of Advocate Act of 1882 or the Code of Civil Procedure, of 1908. Further, the concept of Vakalatnama is given in Section 2(u) of the Advocates' Welfare Funds Act, 2001, and it states,
Vakalatnama includes a memorandum of appearance or any other document by which an advocate is empowered to appear or plead before any court, tribunal, or other authority;
The purpose of a Vakaltnama is to give legal authority to an advocate or an agent to act on behalf of a client. This legal authority includes additional responsibilities for the advocate. Under this document, the client gives the authority to the advocate to take legal actions, present before the court, and make arguments on behalf of the client.
The Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 - Legal Provisions Governing Vakalatnama
- Order III, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure (CPC) governs the Vakalatnama requirement.
- This rule outlines the conditions and process for approving an advocate to represent a party in a civil lawsuit.
- Unless expressly provided otherwise by any law, a party may appear or take action in any court required or authorized in a suit or proceeding.
- The options for an appearance include in person, through a recognized agent, or a pleader appointed by a Vakalatnama.
- By executing a Vakalatnama, a party can designate an advocate to represent them in a civil matter.
- The Vakalatnama is a legal document empowering an advocate to act on behalf of the party in court.
- The party or designated representative must sign the Vakalatnama in writing.
- The signed Vakalatnama must be submitted to the court for approval and record.
- Once the Vakalatnama is submitted, the designated advocate gains the authority to appear, enter pleas, or take any action on behalf of the party in the litigation or procedure.
- The Vakalatnama, whether signed by the party or their representative, serves as a formal authorization for legal representation.
- The Vakalatnama must be in writing, providing a clear and documented record of the authorization.
- The entire process is governed by Order III, Rule 1 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908.
- The rule allows flexibility in how a party chooses to be represented, emphasizing the importance of the Vakalatnama in the legal proceedings.
The Delhi High Court's Vakalatnama rules are outlined in the Delhi High Court (Original Side) Rules, 2018. Among the principal regulations governing Vakalatnama under these regulations are:
- Vakalatnama must be carried out in favor of an advocate permitted to practice before the Delhi High Court.
- The client or its representative must sign the Vakalatnama, which is then submitted to the court alongside the pleadings or other filed paperwork.
- The Vakalatnama must be in the required format as per the regulations and should include information about the client and the advocate, including their names, addresses, and phone numbers, as well as the circumstances of the case and the authority granted to the advocate.
- The Vakalatnama must be filed in triplicate, with one copy being provided to the court and the other being kept by the advocate.
- The client may withdraw the Vakalatnama at any moment by submitting a written request to the court and serving a copy of the request to the advocate.
- If the advocate does not make sure the Vakalatnama is filed on time and in accordance with the requirements, the court may reject the Vakalatnama and take other appropriate action.
Ingredients of a Valid Vakalatnama
A Vakalatnama is an essential document authorizing a lawyer to take action on behalf of the client. Any kind of error or mistake may impact the understanding between the parties and hence, parties should have a clear understanding in oral as well as written understanding to avoid any conflict during the legal proceedings.
Vakalatnama must have the following details to be deemed legitimate in a court of law:
- Name of the case or cases for which the advocate has been appointed;
- Date of the execution of the Vakalatnama;
- Name of the court or courts for which the advocate is being appointed;
- Name of the person authorizing the advocate;
- Parties' signatures;
- Type of power granted to the advocate;
- Address of the advocate;
- Signature of the advocate accepting the Vakalatnama.
Who Can Authorize a Vakalatnama?
An authorized representative plays a crucial role throughout legal proceedings, empowering the advocate to act on the client's behalf. The advocate is duty-bound to protect the client's interests and rights.
Here is who can authorize a Vakalatnama.
- Any person who is impacted or feels wronged may be qualified and authorized to offer a Vakalatnama.
- The Vakalatnama can be performed by any authorized individual on behalf of the organization, society, or entity.
- Parents may be appointed to act as the minor children's guardians.
- A party holding a power of advocate may also be qualified to submit a Vakalatnama.
Contents of a Vakalatnama
The following content categories are typically mentioned in Vakalatnama.
- Information about the case number and the court's name.
- Full name of the designated executor of the vakalatnama.
- The advocate’s full name and service address, if applicable, should be noted.
- Signed by the individual designating an advocate.
- The designated advocate’s signature signifies the acceptance of Vakilatpatra.
Broadly speaking, a Vakalatnama might also include the following clauses:
- The client shall not hold the advocate accountable for any choice made.
- All fees and expenses incurred during the proceedings will be borne by the client.
- If all fees are not paid, the advocate will be entitled to keep the documents.
- During the legal proceedings, the advocate is fully entitled to make independent choices that are in the best interests of the client.
Validity of Vakalatnama
The validity of a Vakalatnama may cease under the following circumstances:
- The death of the client.
- The death of the advocate.
- Withdrawal of the Vakalatnama by the client.
- Withdrawal of the Vakalatnama by the advocate, subject to the court's approval.
- Conclusion of the case.
Implications of an Expired Vakalatnama
Usage of an expired Vakalatnama has legal as well as ethical implications. When a Vakalatnama is canceled or expires, it loses its legal significance and validity. Therefore, any decision made during the Vakalatnama’s expiration will be void. Additionally, the court may take disciplinary action against the advocate for such an act.
Step-by-Step Guide on How to Fill a Vakalatnama
Vakalatnama is a document that establishes a specific relationship between the advocate and the client; as such, it is also advised that the client, or litigant, carefully study all the terms and conditions specified in such Vakalatnama and refrain from making any further agreements.
Filling up the Vakalatnama form requires meticulous attention to detail for:
- The names of the individuals carrying out the Vakalatnama should be listed and the relevant column should be filled in.
- If the Vakalatnama is signed on behalf of a company, society, or other organization, it must reveal the name, title, or authority of the person carrying it out.
- Attaching a seal of any kind or stating the executant's name and title beneath their signature.
- Sign the Vakalatnama as a sign of acceptance by mentioning the name of the pleader in whose favor it is executed.
- Explain the reasoning for the Vakalatnama to be performed on behalf of the individual if it is being performed by them both for themselves and others. For instance, parties are involved when a minor child's guardian is involved.
- If a party's power of advocate is used to execute the Vakalatnama, share a copy of the power of advocate.
- When many signers sign a single Vakalatnama and provide their names or serial numbers in brackets.
Here's a sample Court-Approved Format of a Vakalatnama:
IN THE HON’BLE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL/CRIMINAL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
SLP. ( ) No. ________ Of 201___
IN THE MATTER OF:
SCR ORDER IV RULE 19
I, ………………………….. ………………………….. ………………………… herein, in the above ……………………….. do hereby appoint and retain Sh. …………………………… ……………………………, Advocate of Supreme Court of India, to act and appear for me/us in the above matter and on my/our behalf to conduct and prosecute (or defend) the same and to appear in all proceedings that may be taken in respect of any application connected with the same or any decree passed in therein including proceedings in taxation and applications for review, to file and obtain return of documents and to deposit and receive money on my/our behalf in the said matter and to represent me/us and to take all necessary steps on my/our behalf in the above matter. I/we agree to rectify all acts done by the aforesaid advocates in pursuance of this authority.
Dated ………………..this day of …………….of 201___
Address for service of the said advocate: (……………………….) RESPONDENT
Memo of Appearance
Supreme Court of India
Please enter an appearance for the above-named appellants/petitioners/respondents/ in the mentioned petition/case/ appeal/matter. Date: / /201___
Supreme Court of India
CC. No. …………….
Common Mistakes to Avoid
The Indian courts have found defects routinely found in Vakalatnamas. Hence, the below mistakes should be avoided in a Vakaltnama:
- Failure to fill in the appropriate field with the name(s) of the person(s) performing the Vakalatnama;
- When a Vakalatnama is signed on behalf of a company, society, or other entity, failing to reveal the identity, title, or authority of the person carrying out the Vakalatnama on behalf of the grantor by either sealing it or noting the name and designation beneath the executant's signature (and failing to attach a copy of such authority with the Vakalatnama).
- The pleader whose favor the Vakalatnama is executed fails to sign it as a token of acceptance.
- When someone performs the Vakalatnama both on their behalf and that of another, they fail to disclose that they are performing it in this manner. For instance, when a father and his young children are at parties, the father signs the Vakalatnama by himself without endorsing anything or declaring that he is signing it "for himself and as guardian of his minor children." Similar to this, whenever a company and its director, a firm and its partner, a trust and its trustee, or an organization and its office-bearer sign a Vakalatnama, there will always be just one signature and no indication that the signer is signing in both their capacity and as the official representative of the corporate body.
- Failure to annex a copy of the power of advocate and failure to disclose that the Vakalatnama is being executed by a power of advocate holder;
- Failure to affix the signatures seriatim, without mentioning the names or serial numbers of the signatories in brackets, when multiple people sign a single Vakalatnama. (Many times, when signatures on the Vakalatnama are indistinct scrawls, it is impossible to determine who signed it).
How to Revoke a Vakalatnama
The revocation of a Vakalatnama by the client has several reasons such as:
- In the event the client wishes to opt for another advocate, they will revoke the existing Vakalatnama.
- If they lose trust in the advocate's ability and/ or commitment toward the case, the client may revoke the Vakalatnama.
- Further, if the case of resolved by the parties involved, the client will revoke the Vakalatnama.
- Lastly, in certain cases, there might be legal requirements where the court is demanding the revocation of the Vakalatnama due to the actions or inaction of the advocate.
If a client desires to revoke, cancel, or withdraw the Vakalatnama that was provided to them by their advocate, they have two options:
- Send an email or letter expressing their desire to rescind the Vakalatnama to the prior advocate.
- Ensure that the advocate receives the letter or email and that they acknowledge receipt of it.
- As soon as the advocate confirms receipt of the email correspondence, the Vakalatnama is no longer valid.
- Copy the letter to your new advocate.
- Notify the Court for appropriate documentation by submitting a copy of the same letter.
- The new Vakalatnama must also be filed in court for appropriate record-keeping.
- Issue a fresh Vakalatnama to the new advocate so that he or she can represent you in court.
There are no costs associated with it. Currently, though, Vakalatnama must have a 10 Rupee "Advocate Welfare Stamp" attached to it per Delhi High Court regulations. In addition, the required court costs must be attached to the plant. The nominal fee of the suit or claim value is the court fee. Every suit has a different amount of court and stamp fees, which are specified in the "Court Fees Stamp Act."