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Stamp paper validity period- Myth or Reality?

Stamps – An Introduction:

There is huge controversy over validity of a stamp paper commonly known as stamps. Common belief is that a stamp is valid for 6 Months from the date of purchase of receipt. Over a period of time, the stamped document has obtained so much value that a ‘stamped document’ is considered much more authentic and reliable than an un-stamped document. Its because of authenticity in minds of common validity of stamp paper has become important.

Bombay Stamp Act,1958

Only under Sec, 52 B (a) of  The Bombay Stamp Act 1958, period of six months is mentioned from the date of purchase or delivery after which the stamps become invalid.

The Bombay Stamp (Gujarat Amendment Act) 2004

This time period of six months is also quantified under the The Bombay Stamp (Gujarat Amendment Act) 2004 under Section 52C which is applicable in Gujarat.

Supreme Court Decision in Thiruvengada Pillai vs Navaneethammal & Anr on 19 February, 2008

Question for Consideration

Whether the agreement of sale executed on two stamp papers purchased on different dates and more than six months prior to date of execution is not valid?

Courts Directives:

  1. The Trial Court and the High Court have doubted the genuineness of the agreement dated 5.1.1980 because it was written on two stamp papers purchased on 25.8.1973 and 7.8.1978. The learned counsel for first respondent submitted that apart from raising a doubt about the authenticity of the document, the use of such old stamp papers invalidated the agreement itself for two reasons. Firstly, it was illegal to use stamp papers purchased on different dates for execution of a document. Secondly, as the stamp papers used in the agreement of sale were more than six months old, they were not valid stamp papers and consequently, the agreement prepared on such ‘expired’ papers was also not valid. We will deal with the second contention first.

The Indian Stamp Act, 1899 nowhere prescribes any expiry date for use of a stamp paper. Section 54merely provides that a person possessing a stamp paper for which he has no immediate use (which is not spoiled or rendered unfit or useless), can seek refund of the value thereof by surrendering such stamp paper to the Collector provided it was purchased within the period of six months next preceding the date on which it was so surrendered.

The stipulation of the period of six months prescribed in section 54 is only for the purpose of seeking refund of the value of the unused stamp paper, and not for use of the stamp paper. 

Section 54 does not require the person who has purchased a stamp paper, to use it within six months. Therefore, there is no impediment for a stamp paper purchased more than six months prior to the proposed date of execution, being used for a document.

  1. The Stamp Rules in many States provide that when a person wants to purchase stamp papers of a specified value and a single stamp paper of such value is not available, the stamp vendor can supply appropriate number of stamp papers required to make up the specified value; and that when more than one stamp paper is issued in regard to a single transaction, the stamp vendor is required to give consecutive numbers. In some States, the rules further require an endorsement by the stamp vendor on the stamp paper certifying that a single sheet of required value was not available and therefore more than one sheet (specifying the number of sheets) have been issued to make up the requisite stamp value. But the Indian Stamp Rules, 1925 applicable to Tamil Nadu, do not contain any provision that the stamp papers of required value should be purchased together from the same vendor with consecutive serial numbers. The Rules merely provide that where two or more sheets of paper on which stamps are engraved or embossed are used to make up the amount of duty chargeable in respect of any instrument, a portion of such instrument shall be written on each sheet so used. No other Rule was brought to our notice which required use of consecutively numbered stamp papers in the State of Tamil Nadu. The Stamp Act is a fiscal enactment intended to secure revenue for the State. In the absence of any Rule requiring consecutively numbered stamp papers purchased on the same day, being used for an instrument which is not intended to be registered, a document cannot be termed as invalid merely because it is written on two stamp papers purchased by the same person on different dates. Even assuming that use of such stamp papers is an irregularity, the court can only deem the document to be not properly stamped, but cannot, only on that ground, hold the document to be invalid. Even if an agreement is not executed on requisite stamp paper, it is admissible in evidence on payment of duty and penalty under section 35 or 37 of the Indian Stamp Act, 1899.

If an agreement executed on a plain paper could be admitted in evidence by paying duty and penalty, there is no reason why an agreement executed on two stamp papers, even assuming that they were defective, cannot be accepted on payment of duty and penalty. But admissibility of a document into evidence and proof of genuineness of such document are different issues.

  1. If a person wants to create or a back-dated agreement, the first hurdle he faces is the non-availability of stamp paper of such old date. Therefore tampering of the date of issue and seal affixed by the stamp vendor, as also the entries made by the stamp vendor, are quite common in a forged document. When the agreement is dated 5.1.1980, and the stamp papers used are purchased in the years 1973 and 1978, one of the possible inferences is that the plaintiff not being able to secure an anti-dated stamp paper for creating the agreement (bearing a date prior to the date of sale in favour of second defendant), made use of some old stamp papers that were available with him, to fabricate the document. The fact that very old stamp papers of different dates have been used, may certainly be a circumstance that can be used as a piece of evidence to cast doubt on the authenticity of the agreement. But that cannot be a clinching evidence. There is also a possibility that a lay man unfamiliar with legal provisions relating to stamps, may bona fide think that he could use the old unused stamp papers lying with him for preparation of the document and accordingly use the old stamp papers.

Conclusions: The judgment passed by the Supreme Court has now set the point clear. However, in Bombay and Gujarat, since there is conflict between Central Act and State Act. As per Article 254 of Constitution of India, Central Act will prevail and hence one can conclude that stamp paper has no validity period.It remain valid forever.

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