An Insight Into The Evidence Law

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Index 

  1. Introduction 
  2. Types Of Laws
  3. Types Of Evidence 
  4. Why Evidence Law Is Needed 
  5. Terms To Acknowledge 
  6. Understanding The Significance Of Facts
  7. What Is Dying Declaration 
  8. What Is Expert Advice 
  9. What Is A Witness 
  10. Stages Of Examining Witnesses 
  11. Conclusion 

Introduction 

Indian Evidence Act is a comprehensive law that lays down the rules and principles for the presentation and assessment of evidence in Indian courts of law.

The Indian Evidence Act plays a crucial role in our legal system, similar to how evidence is essential in any country’s judicial system. Before this act, there were no clear rules about evidence in India, but this act changed that by providing guidelines on how evidence should be handled. Although it’s based on English law, it’s not entirely comprehensive, and it’s specific to the laws of the country where the court is located. The word “evidence” comes from Latin and means showing, discovering, or proving something clearly.

The Indian Evidence Act is applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, except for certain provisions that were omitted by the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019. The Jammu and Kashmir Evidence Act, 1920, also provides guidelines on evidence in the region, but the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, as amended by the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, remains applicable in Jammu and Kashmir, with certain modifications and omissions.

Types Of Laws 

The legal framework in India can be broadly categorised into two types:

  1. Substantive Laws: These are the set of rules, regulations, and principles that define the rights, duties, and obligations of individuals and entities within the society. Substantive laws govern the substance or subject matter of various legal domains, such as criminal law, civil law, corporate law, property law, and family law, among others. They establish the legal standards and norms that determine what is considered lawful or unlawful conduct.
  2. Adjective or Procedural Laws: These laws deal with the procedures and mechanisms for enforcing, applying, and administering the substantive laws. Adjective laws govern the rules and processes related to the presentation, admissibility, and evaluation of evidence, pleadings, and other aspects of legal proceedings. They outline the steps and protocols to be followed in the judicial system, such as the rules of civil and criminal procedure, the Indian Evidence Act, and the laws related to the functioning of courts and tribunals.
  3. The law of evidence is neither substantive or procedural law; instead, it falls under “adjective law.” This means it deals with how evidence is presented and procedures are followed in relation to substantive laws.

Types Of Evidence 

  1. Oral evidence, as per Section 60, refers to testimony given by a witness based on what they have personally seen or heard. This type of evidence is crucial for proving facts relevant to a case, but it must directly and positively support the issues at hand. For example, if a witness saw an accident occur, their firsthand account would be considered oral evidence in court.
  2. Section 3 covers documentary evidence, which includes information presented in written form such as documents, records, or contracts. Unlike oral evidence, documentary evidence allows the court to directly examine the contents of the document to establish facts pertinent to the case. For instance, a contract or a medical report can serve as documentary evidence to support or refute claims in a legal matter.
  3. Primary evidence, outlined in Section 62, holds significant weight in court as it directly proves or disproves facts crucial to a case. For instance, a paper document such as a vehicle’s registration certificate serves as primary evidence to establish ownership. This kind of evidence is considered the most reliable and authoritative in legal proceedings due to its direct connection to the facts under consideration.
  4. Section 63 addresses secondary evidence, which comes into play when primary evidence is unavailable. In situations where primary evidence, like the original document, is lost or inaccessible, secondary evidence steps in to support or establish facts in question. For example, if the original ownership document of a vehicle is missing, a photocopy or a duplicate record can serve as secondary evidence to demonstrate ownership. While secondary evidence is accepted in courts, it is generally considered less conclusive than primary evidence.
  5. Real evidence refers to tangible material that the court can physically examine without needing additional information. This type of evidence allows the court to directly observe and assess the evidence firsthand, making it highly valuable in legal proceedings. For example, physical objects like weapons, documents, or photographs can be considered real evidence because they can be directly inspected by the court.
  6. Direct evidence, on the other hand, is exceptionally potent in legal contexts because it requires no inference or deduction by the court. This evidence directly and clearly demonstrates the impact or occurrence of a fact, making it a powerful tool for establishing or proving matters at issue. For instance, eyewitness testimony or video footage that directly captures an event without ambiguity is considered direct evidence due to its straightforward nature and immediate relevance to the case.
  7. Indirect or circumstantial evidence comes into play when there isn’t enough direct evidence to prove a fact in court. In such cases, the court can use available evidence to construct a logical connection or inference between the existing evidence and the fact in question. If this constructed link is convincing beyond reasonable doubt, the court can establish the fact based on this indirect evidence. For instance, if a murder weapon is found near the scene of the crime and the accused’s fingerprints are on it, this circumstantial evidence can contribute to proving the accused’s involvement in the crime.
  8. Hearsay evidence is generally considered weak or even inadmissible in court. This type of evidence relies on secondhand information, where the witness reports facts that they did not directly witness or experience themselves. Since the reliability of hearsay evidence is often questionable, courts typically place less weight on it when determining the facts of a case. For example, if a witness testifies about a conversation they overheard between two other people, that testimony may be considered hearsay and may not carry as much credibility in establishing the facts of the case.
  9. Judicial evidence encompasses various types of evidence that are formally presented or received by the court during legal proceedings. This includes statements made by witnesses, documentary evidence such as contracts or reports, facts established through witness examination in court, and instances of self-incrimination. Essentially, judicial evidence refers to evidence that is officially recognized and considered admissible in court to help establish or refute facts relevant to a case.
  10. Non-judicial evidence pertains to information or statements related to a case that are obtained or disclosed outside of the courtroom setting. This can include confessions made by witnesses, accused individuals, or victims outside of formal legal proceedings. Non-judicial evidence is often considered separately from judicial evidence and may have different levels of reliability or admissibility depending on the circumstances and context in which it is presented.
  11. Prima facie evidence operates on the principle of “on the face of it” or “at first glance.” This type of evidence allows the court to presume certain facts as true and valid until they are disproved or challenged. In essence, prima facie evidence provides a starting point for establishing facts, but its validity remains subject to further scrutiny and examination during the legal process.
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Why Evidence Law Is Needed 

The law of evidence serves two main purposes and they are guiding how proof is established in court and ensuring justice. They are:

  1. To ensure fair trials and justice: The law of evidence helps courts discover the truth by governing the admissibility and evaluation of evidence. It prevents the introduction of unreliable or inadmissible evidence, thereby ensuring fair trials.
  2. To protect rights of parties: The evidence law defines the circumstances under which witnesses and accused can be compelled to testify. This protects their rights. It also prevents abuse of judicial processes by establishing clear guidelines for evidence production and consideration.
  3. To maintain impartiality and credibility of the judicial system: The evidence law is crucial for ensuring fairness, impartiality and credibility of the Indian legal system. It helps uphold the principles of natural justice by governing the admissibility and weight given to different types of evidence.
  4. To provide a framework for fact-finding: The law of evidence lays down the rules and procedures for determining disputed facts in judicial investigations. It specifies what facts can be considered relevant, how evidence should be presented, and how it should be evaluated.

Terms To Acknowledge 

  1. Facts, as per section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, refer to anything that exists or happens, encompassing knowledge or information about various matters. On the other hand, facts in issue are specifically the facts that are under question or need to be proven to draw conclusions and ensure justice in a case. For example X is a store owner is a fact . X is accused for robbery is a fact in issue
  2. Relevant facts are those that are connected to and have an impact on other facts by providing support, inferences, or influence. For example Mr c has been accused of murder is a fact . Mr C was in India at the time of murder is a relevant fact
  3. A fact is deemed proven when, upon reviewing all the evidence presented during trials and proceedings, the court either believes in the occurrence of the case exactly as described or infers with reasonable certainty that the case indeed unfolded as explained. This belief is grounded either in direct evidence or inferences drawn from the evidence provided, reaching a conclusion beyond reasonable doubt.
  4. A fact is considered disproven when, following a thorough examination of all evidence, the court either concludes that the described event does not exist or makes a probable inference beyond reasonable doubt that the case did not occur in the manner described. This determination is based on the lack of supporting evidence or on inferences that contradict the explanation provided, resulting in a disbelief in the case as presented.
  5. Presumption is a method of establishing certain facts based on their likelihood or the consequences of specific actions, which bolster that likelihood. When this likelihood is highly substantiated, facts can be inferred. In legal terms, presumption refers to conclusions drawn by the court regarding the presence of certain facts, whether affirmative or negative, based on the best probable reasoning from circumstances. The fundamental principle is that if primary facts or circumstances support other related facts, those facts can be presumed as proven until proven otherwise. Section 114 of the Indian Evidence Act elaborates on this, stating that the court can presume the occurrence of any fact it deems probable, considering the typical course of natural events, human behaviour, and public/private affairs in relation to the case’s facts.
  6. Shall Presume in legal terms is a strong assertion or intention to establish a fact. Section 4 of the Indian Evidence Act clarifies that in cases of “Shall Presume,” the court doesn’t have discretion but is obliged to accept presumed facts as proven unless disproved by the opposing party. This concept, also known as “Presumption of Law,” “Artificial Presumption,” “Obligatory Presumption,” or “Rebuttable Presumption of Law,” is a fundamental aspect of jurisprudence.
  7. Conclusive proofs represent the strongest form of presumption in legal proceedings. Despite not being entirely based on logic, courts uphold these presumptions for the betterment of society. Under conclusive proofs, the law prohibits any evidence that contradicts the presumption, making it unchallengeable even with probative evidence. These are among the most robust presumptions, with Section 41, 112, and 113 of the Evidence Act and S. 82 of the Indian Penal Code being pivotal in establishing irrebuttable presumptions or Conclusive Presumption.

Illustration :

X and Y got married on June 1, and shortly after, X left for work for six months. Upon returning, X discovered that Y was pregnant and promptly divorced her, claiming he wasn’t responsible for any damages, including those for his illegitimate son. X argued that he never consummated the marriage since he left immediately after the wedding for work. However, the court will conclusively presume that the child is legitimate because X was with Y for at least one day after marriage, making any contrary evidence inadmissible, even if X presents probative evidence.

Understanding The Significance Of Facts 

  1. Res Gestae, according to the Indian evidence act under section 6,refers to statements made spontaneously and contemporaneously with an event, providing a direct link to the circumstances surrounding the event. These statements are considered reliable as they are made before the individual has time to fabricate a story. The doctrine allows for the admission of statements that are intimately connected with the principal facts of a case, forming part of the same transaction. This exception to the general rule against hearsay evidence aims to ensure the sincerity and spontaneity of the response to a stimulus. For a statement to be considered part of Res Gestae, it must explain or characterise the incident, be a statement of fact (not opinion), be spontaneous, and involve participants of the transaction, such as victims, accused individuals, or eyewitnesses. The statement must be made at the time of the event or immediately after, with little opportunity for fabrication. If there is any interval that allows for doubt or uncertainty, the statement may not be considered part of Res Gestae. Courts have expanded the application of Res Gestae to include various situations, such as domestic abuse cases and instances where there are no eyewitnesses. This expansion aims to ensure that crucial evidence is not excluded due to technicalities. While statements falling under Res Gestae are considered reliable, they may require corroboration by other evidence to sustain a conviction. The doctrine emphasises the importance of sincerity and spontaneity in statements made in close proximity to an event. In the case of Ratten v. Queen, the victim (wife) contacted the police for assistance as her husband was threatening her with a gun, indicating his intention to kill her. However, the call abruptly disconnected before the operator could gather details from the victim. Subsequently, the police discovered the wife’s lifeless body in her residence, the same location from which she made the distress call. The timing of the call aligned closely with the time of her death, leading the court to apply the principle of res gestae. Consequently, the court found the husband guilty of murder, dismissing his claim that the shooting was accidental and devoid of intent.
  2. Section 8 of the Indian Evidence Act underscores the significance of motive, preparation, and conduct in legal proceedings, particularly in cases lacking direct evidence. Motive and preparation typically precede any conduct, making them pivotal elements in establishing facts based on circumstantial evidence. This section highlights how understanding motive, preparation, and conduct can be crucial when direct evidence is unavailable.
  3. In the case of Kundula Bala vs. State of A.P, the son-in-law had requested a piece of land from the deceased before his marriage. However, after the marriage, the deceased declined to transfer ownership of the property, stating that he intended to give it to his daughter instead. These actions and statements by the father-in-law influenced the accused, leading to the commission of a crime at a later time. The court noted that the accused had a significant motive for committing the crime, stemming from the father-in-law’s refusal to transfer the property into the accused’s name.
  4. The Supreme Court of India defines preparation as the actions taken or items arranged for committing an act, including the essentials needed for a crime or offence. Evidence indicating that the accused prepared for the crime is always admissible in court. However, preparation doesn’t cover the entire situation; it focuses solely on the arrangements made for committing an act. It’s not necessary that preparation always occurs, but it’s likely to happen. Proving preparation can be challenging because there’s no guarantee it always happens before a crime. Courts often infer preparation based on certain facts to establish or determine the preparation for a committed crime.
  5. In the case of Mohan Lal v. Emperor, the accused faced charges of cheating for importing goods from Okha port to Karachi port without paying the correct customs duty, through arrangements with the customs department. The prosecution presented sufficient evidence to establish that the accused had prepared to evade import duties. The Court deemed the accused’s actions as entirely wrongful and prohibited by law, holding the accused liable for preparation.
  6. Section 8 of The Indian Evidence Act defines conduct as the external behaviour of a person. To determine if someone’s conduct is relevant to an incident, the court must establish a connection between the conduct of the person who committed the crime and the conduct during the incident. This part plays a crucial role in reaching a conclusion in disputes based on relevant conduct. Whether the conduct is before or after the incident, the court examines it carefully. Conduct is considered important evidence under Section 8 only when it is directly related; otherwise, indirect recognition of conduct diminishes its importance. In the case of Bhamara v. State of M.P, a person X was farming on his land when he noticed someone near his property and called them over for a chat. However, the conversation escalated into an argument and eventually led to a fight. When others intervened to stop the fight, the offender attempted to flee but was apprehended by someone else. The Court considered the offender’s act of trying to escape as relevant subsequent conduct.
  7. Conspiracy refers to when a group of people collaborates with a shared intention to commit an act, whether illegal or achieving a legal act through unlawful means. Criminal conspiracy, specifically, involves two or more individuals planning and agreeing to carry out an unlawful act, forming a partnership in crime. This mutual agreement among the conspirators is essential for executing a common plan. The relevant legal provisions addressing criminal conspiracy are Section 120(A) of the Indian Penal Code, defining the offence, and Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, which pertains to the actions and communications of conspirators. To establish a criminal conspiracy under Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Laws, several key elements must be present. Firstly, there should be sufficient grounds indicating the existence of a conspiracy. This involves at least two or more individuals coming together with a common intention, which is essential for forming a conspiracy. The actions or statements of the conspirators play a crucial role in proving conspiracy, and these actions or statements must align with the common intention shared among them. In essence, the essentials of a criminal conspiracy involve establishing reasonable grounds, multiple participants, a shared common intention, and actions/statements in line with that intention. In the case of State of Tamil Nadu v. Nalini, the court ruled that under Section 10 of the Indian Evidence Act, statements made by one participant of a conspiracy after executing the conspiracy cannot be used as evidence against other conspirators.
  8. Section 11 of the Indian Evidence Act introduces the concept of Alibi derived from the Latin word meaning ‘elsewhere.’ This section allows the accused to defend themselves by proving they were elsewhere at the time of the incident in question. While this may not have been relevant previously, it becomes relevant when the accused presents evidence that they were not present at the scene. This rule is specific to the admission of evidence and isn’t provided by any other statute. For the plea of alibi to be valid, certain essentials must be met. Firstly, there must be an offence punishable by law, and the person claiming the defence under Section 10 must be accused of that specific offence. The defence of alibi must be presented at the beginning of the trial and must be proven beyond any reasonable doubt. This defence should be satisfactory and supported by evidence demonstrating the accused’s absence from the scene at the time of the offence. In the case of Sahabuddin & Anr vs the State of Assam, if the court has doubts regarding the plea of alibi and the accused fails to provide a solid explanation during the Section 313 CrPC statement, the court has the authority to draw a negative inference against the accused.
  9. Section 23 of the Indian Evidence Act defines a confession as an admission of guilt by a criminal or an indication that they committed a wrongful act. Confessions can be made at any point during a trial. In the case of Palvinder Kaur v State of Punjab, the Supreme Court highlighted two key points. Firstly, a confession involves the accused admitting guilt or acknowledging facts that form the offence. However, a statement that includes both confessional and self-exculpatory elements does not constitute a confession and can lead to an acquittal. Essentially, if a statement includes self-exculpatory information that, if true, would negate the offence, it cannot be considered a confession.
  10. A judicial confession is when someone confesses to a magistrate during a court proceeding or trial. These confessions are highly significant because they are directly recorded by the court itself. According to Section 164 of the CrPC, a magistrate has the authority to record such confessions, which hold substantial evidentiary value and can lead to the guilt of the confessor. The Rajasthan High Court has emphasised that for a confession to be valid, it must be given freely, voluntarily, and genuinely, leaving no need for the prosecution to prove any further facts for the person to be convicted based on the confession.
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What Is Dying Declaration 

A Dying declaration refers to a statement, either written or spoken, made by a person who has passed away. It typically contains relevant information about the circumstances surrounding their death.

The concept of dying declaration originates from the legal maxim ‘nemo ‘mariturus presumuntur mentri,’ which means a person facing imminent death is presumed to speak the truth. Although this may seem idealistic, our legal system has embraced this idea. Section 32(1) of the law specifically addresses dying declarations related to the cause of death. These statements are considered relevant even if the person who made them has passed away by the time they are presented in court.

In the case of Maniram v. State of Madhya Pradesh, the dying declaration was recorded by a doctor, but the doctor did not verify the consciousness report of the deceased. Additionally, there was no thumb signature on the dying declaration. Due to these issues, the credibility of the First Information Report (FIR) was compromised, and it became challenging to rely on the dying declaration as evidence.

What Is Expert Advice 

Experts with specialised knowledge, skills, and experience in areas like foreign law, science, art, handwriting, or fingerprint analysis are called upon to provide insights in court. These experts acquire their expertise through practice, observation, or formal study in their respective fields. Sections 45 to 51 of the Indian Evidence Act cover the admissibility of expert opinions, which are also known as opinions of third persons. While evidence is typically based on facts known to a witness, the exception of expert opinion arises when the court faces technically complex or professionally sophisticated matters beyond its expertise. 

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An expert opinion can be sought when there is a dispute that cannot be resolved without specialised knowledge and when the witness providing the opinion has expertise in the subject matter under discussion.

In Piara Singh v. State of Punjab, the court emphasised that in cases where two experts hold contradictory opinions, the court should consider only those opinions supported by direct evidence related to the facts of the case.

What Is A Witness 

A witness is someone who voluntarily offers evidence to help the court understand and decide on the rights and responsibilities of the parties involved in a case. Witnesses can be individuals directly involved or experts providing valuable insights. Evidence presented in court often relies on witness statements, and even the authenticity of documents can be established through witnesses. Due to the importance of witnesses, the law requires careful consideration of their credibility. Before admitting witness statements, the court addresses questions like how many witnesses are necessary to establish a fact, who is relevant as a witness, and how to assess the credibility of witnesses.

Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act outlines the criteria for witness competency. It states that all individuals are generally competent to testify in court unless they are protected by other provisions due to factors such as extreme old age, chronic illness, legal unsoundness, or an inability to understand the questions presented to them. These exceptions ensure that witnesses can effectively contribute to the legal process.

Section 118 of the Indian Evidence Act establishes that, prima facie, all individuals except those deemed incompetent can testify in court regarding facts in issues. The fundamental criterion for assessing witness competency is whether the witness can comprehend the questions posed and provide reasonable answers.

Subsequently, Section 135 of the Indian Evidence Act delineates the sequence and procedure for the production and examination of witnesses. It stipulates that witnesses must be presented in a specific order and examined according to established rules. Additionally, the court has discretionary powers to determine the order and manner of witness production and examination in cases where no specific laws apply. While Section 136 grants the court discretionary authority to determine the admissibility of evidence.

Stages Of Examining Witnesses 

The three basic stages in the examination of witnesses are:

  1. Examination-in-Chief: This is the first stage where the witness is presented by their own counsel to provide their testimony and present their side of the story to the court. The purpose is to elicit all relevant facts from the witness to support their case. The examination-in-chief is conducted by the witness’s own counsel.
  2. Cross-Examination: The second stage involves the opposing party’s counsel questioning the witness to test their credibility, challenge their testimony, and bring out facts favourable to their side. Cross-examination aims to expose any inconsistencies, weaknesses, or biases in the witness’s account. It is conducted by the opposing party’s counsel.
  3. Re-Examination: The final stage allows the witness’s own counsel to re-examine the witness to clarify any points raised during cross-examination. The purpose of re-examination is to address any doubts or ambiguities that arose during the cross-examination and to explain or clarify matters referred to in the cross-examination. Re-examination is limited to matters discussed during cross-examination

Conclusion 

In conclusion, the Indian Evidence Act plays a pivotal role in shaping the legal landscape of India by providing a structured framework for the admission and evaluation of evidence in court proceedings. Through its various sections and provisions, the Act ensures fairness, transparency, and adherence to legal principles in the determination of facts and the administration of justice. From defining the types of evidence to outlining the competency of witnesses and establishing rules for the production and examination of evidence, the Act serves as a cornerstone of the Indian legal system. It upholds the principles of fairness, impartiality, and reliability, ultimately contributing to the effective functioning of the judiciary and the protection of individual rights within the realm of law.

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