What is an affidavit?
Many times throughout the course of a lawsuit one comes across the term "affidavit", either through one's lawyer or the Court. However, at times if one was not previously asked to draw up an affidavit, one would not know what is meant by such a term.
An affidavit is a sworn statement in written form. It is one's testimony with the exception that instead of giving it orally in Court, it is written down. However, that does not diminish its strength. Indeed, anything written down must be the truth. Just like one cannot lie in Court when giving evidence as that would tantamount to perjury, one cannot lie when drawing up an affidavit, as that would also amount to perjury. Indeed, criminal action can be taken against anyone who commits perjury.
Therefore, when one draws up an affidavit, one not only must say the truth, but one must limit himself/herself to state the facts. Cases are decided on facts and not on perceptions/wishes/thoughts etc. Therefore, it is imperative that an affidavit has facts as seen and heard by the person drawing up that affidavit.
Moreover, the person drawing up an affidavit should not write down everything that comes to mind as one needs to stick to the case at hand. It is useless to write down irrelevant facts because if they are not of relevance to the case at hand, they will be discarded, and the exercise of drawing up an affidavit would have been a futile one. Therefore, one must put down the facts relevant to the case and nothing more.
When one draws up an affidavit and this affidavit is filed in Court, the other party has the right to summon the person who drew up the affidavit to cross-examine him/her. For the cross-examination, one needs to be present in Court and one will be asked questions arising from the affidavit.
An affidavit is a useful legal tool as it is expeditious and helps with the progression of the case, because, rather than waiting for a sitting to summon the witnesses to testify one by one, one can file their testimonies in written format saving time for everyone.
Article written by Dr Ann Marie Mangion.