For example, long back my boss wanted my signature as a witness signature on a contract for one of his property deals. All other signatures were already on the contract, so I wasn't really a witness to the signatures. My uncle advised me that "if you were not a witness, then you don't have to sign". So I didn't.
My boss however had told me that a witness has no liability, so there is no issue in signing. Is that true?
For example, in this form, the witness has to mention their name in full and give their full address. In another form I've seen, the witness just has to mention their name and sign there.
From this website I got:
The underlying purpose of having a signature witnessed by a third party is for evidential reasons. The witness would be able to confirm that the signature on the agreement is indeed the signature of the party whose name appears.
In India a contract may be effective without any signatures being witnessed, although it is always advisable to have a contract attested by witnesses. In some countries, in order to be legally enforceable, the contract may have to be signed before a notary public. As different jurisdictions have different rules, always check the position before finalising the contract.
When a signature is witnessed, as well as signing, it is sensible for the witness to write their name in block capitals and insert their home address.
and from this answer, which says:
In India the undermentioned persons can be appointed as a Notary: a) a person who has been practicing at least for 10 years or b) a person belonging to scheduled Castes/ Scheduled Tribes and other backward classes and has been practicing for at least seven years, or C) a woman who has been practicing at least for seven years as a legal practitioner or D) he has been a member of the Indian Legal Service under the Central Government or E) he has been at least for ten years - I) a member of Judicial Service or ii) held an office under the Central Government or a State Government requiring special knowledge of law after enrollment as an advocate;or iii) held an office in the department of Judge, Advocate General or in the Legal Department of the armed forces. Source: The Notaries Rules , 1956 as amended and subs by GSR 8-7-97and 5/1/2000. as amended by (Amendment)Rules, 2014. This is not an exact reproduction of the said rule but is only broadly for information. Pl. read rule 3 for details.
At least the above points make sense, because a notary is a person who knows the law, has the authority to be a witness and can even give the notary stamp for a confirmation. But if a common person signs as a witness, they might not even know what they are doing and might not know what their liability is, especially if the signatures were not done in front of them.
So when a person requests for a witness signature, should they in good faith, first call the witnesses and sign in front of them? If the signature was not done in front of the witness and the witness still signs, what is the liability on the part of the witness? Can any punitive action be taken on the witness (the witness might not even mention their full/correct address)?
If there is no liability, then couldn't a person simply put some fake signature and name, purporting that some witness had signed it (in case the document is genuine and they see no reason why someone would actually call the witness to establish the truth)?