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Indian Evidence Act, 1872 – Law of Evidence for a simple understanding may be understood as a system of rules that govern the proof of facts in a legal proceeding. This system of rules determines what is considered to be evidence or not be considered as evidence at the Court. It becomes a vital exercise to ascertain the facts, which are the essential elements of a right or liability, this Law of Evidence gained its importance.
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is an Act to consolidate, define and amend the Law of Evidence.
Meaning of Indian Evidence Act
Evidence, in law, can be defined as any of the material items or assertions of fact that may be submitted to a Court as a means of ascertaining the truth of any alleged matter of fact under judicial proceeding before it. In legal terms, evidence covers the burden of proof, admissibility, relevance, weight, and sufficiency of what should be admitted into the record of a legal proceeding.
To granulate further, “Evidence” means and includes:
1. all statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence;
2. all documents (including electronic records) produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence.
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Terms to be aware of
Judicial Proceedings: Section 2(i) of the Criminal Procedure Code defines as “a proceeding in the course of which evidence is or may be legally taken on oath”.
a) the proceedings under the Income Tax are not “judicial proceedings” under this Act.
b) the proceedings before an arbitrator.
An affidavit is a declaration sworn or affirmed before a person competent to administer an oath. Thus, an affidavit per se does not become evidence in the suits but it can become evidence only by consent of the party or if specifically authorised by any provision of the law. They can be used as evidence only under OrderXIX of the Civil Procedure Code.
Facts: According to Section 3, “fact” means and includes:
a) anything, state of things, or relation of things capable of being perceived by the senses;
b) any mental condition of which any person is conscious.
Thus facts are classified into physical and psychological facts.
Structure of Act
The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is divided into three parts, namely:
a) Relevancy of Facts
b) On Proof
It is further divided into 11 chapters with 167 sections.
The element of Fact and Evidence
Evidence may be given of facts in issue and relevant facts. Whereby for anything to be proved as evidence must be related to facts. No person can give evidence of a fact to which he is deprived to prove by any provision of the law. To understand their relevancy it is necessary to know their scope and meaning.
A fact is said to be relevant to another when the one is connected with the other in any of the ways
referred to in the provisions of this Act relating to the relevancy of facts. Where in a case direct evidence is not available to prove a fact in issue then it may be proved by any circumstantial evidence and in such a case every piece of circumstantial evidence would be an instance of a “relevant fact”.
Logical relevancy and legal relevancy: A fact is said to be logically relevant to another when it bears such casual relation with the other fact to render its existence or non-existence. All logical facts need not be legally relevant.
Relevancy under the Act is not a question of pure logic but of law, as no fact, however logically relevant is receivable in evidence unless it is declared by the Act/Court to be relevant.
Legal relevancy and admissibility: Relevancy and admissibility are not co-extensive or interchangeable terms. A fact may be legally relevant, yet its reception in evidence may be prohibited on the grounds of public policy or on some other ground. Similarly, every admissible fact is not necessarily relevant.
Facts in issue: means and includes-any fact from which, either by itself or in connection with other facts, the existence, non-existence, nature, or extent of any right, liability, or disability, asserted or denied in any suit or proceedings that necessarily follows.
Therefore under the provisions of the law relating to Civil Procedure, any Court records an issue of fact, the fact to be asserted or denied in the answer to such issues a fact in issue.
A fact in issue is called the principal fact to be proved and the relevant fact the evidentiary fact from which the principal fact follows. The fact which constitutes the right or liability called “fact in issue” and in a particular case the question of determining the “facts in issue” depends upon the rule of the substantive law which defines the rights and liabilities claimed.
Facts in issue and issues of fact: Under Civil Procedure Code, the Court has to frame issues on all disputed facts which are necessary in the case. These are called issues of fact but the subject matter of an issue of fact is always a fact in issue. Thus when described in the context of the Civil Procedure Code, it is an ‘issue of fact’ and when described in the language of the Evidence Act it is a ‘fact in issue’. Thus as discussed above, the distinction between facts in issue and relevant facts is of fundamental importance.
Classification of relevant facts
Principles of Sections relating to the relevancy of facts are mere rules of logic. Relevant facts may be classified in the following form:
i. facts connected with the facts to be proved; (Sections 6 to 16)
ii. statement about the facts to be proved e.g. admission, confession;(Sections 17 to 31)
iii. statements by persons who cannot be called as witnesses; (Sections 32 to 33)
iv. statements made under special circumstances; (Sections 34 to 38)
v. how much of a statement is to be proved; (Section 39)
vi. judgments of Courts of justice, when relevant; (Sections 40 to 44)
viii. opinions of third persons, when relevant; (Sections 45 to 51)
viii. the character of parties in Civil cases and of the accused in criminal cases. (Sections 52 to 55)
Two fundamental rules on which the law of evidence is based are:
i. no facts other than those having rational probative value should be admitted in evidence and,
ii. all facts having rational probative value are admissible in evidence unless excluded by a positive rule of paramount importance.
Relevancy of facts to be proved
1. Res gestae or facts which though not in issue, are so connected with a fact in issue as to form part of the same transaction.
Section 6 embodies the rule of admission of evidence relating to what is commonly known as res gestae. The obvious ground for the admission of such evidence is the spontaneity and immediacy of the act or declaration in question.
2. Facts constituting the occasion, or effect of, or opportunity or state of things for the occurrence of the fact to be proved whether it be a fact or another relevant fact. (Section 7)
3. Motive, preparation, and previous or subsequent conduct. According to Section 8, any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact. Motive means which moves a person to act in a particular way. It is different from intention. The substantive law is rarely concerned with motive, but the existence of a motive, from the point of view of evidence would be a relevant fact, in every criminal case. That is the first step in every investigation.
Statements about the facts to be proved
The general rule known as the hearsay rule is that what is stated about the fact in question is irrelevant. To this general rule there are three exceptions which are:
a) Admissions and Confessions – an Admission is a statement, oral or documentary or contained in electronic form which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact made by any of the persons.
However, the Act does not define a confession but includes in admissions of which it is a species. Thus confessions are a special form of admissions
b) Statements by persons who are not witnesses – Certain statements made by persons who are dead, or cannot be found or produced without unreasonable delay or expense, make the second exception to the general rule. However, it has to fulfill few conditions for this purpose.
c) Statements made under special circumstances – When any statement of which evidence is given forms part of a longer statement, or of a conversation or part of an isolated document, or is contained in a document which forms part of a book, or is contained in part of an electronic record or of a connected series of letters or papers, evidence shall be given of so much and no more of the statement, conversation, document, electronic record, book or of letters or papers as the Court considers necessary in that particular case to the full understanding of the nature and effect of the statement, and of the circumstances under which it was made. (Section 39)
Relevancy of opinion of third persons
The general rule is that the opinion of a witness on a question whether of fact or law is irrelevant. However, there are some exceptions to this general rule.
a) Opinions of experts
b) Facts that support or are inconsistent with the opinions of experts are also made relevant
c) Others: In addition to the opinions of experts, where the opinion of any other person is also relevant.
Oral, Documentary, and Circumstantial Evidence
The Act divides the subject of proof into two parts:
i. proof of facts other than the contents of documents;
ii. proof of documents including proof of execution of documents and proof of existence, condition, and contents of documents.
However, all facts except contents of documents or electronic records may be proved by oral evidence (Section 59) which must in all cases be “direct” (Section 60).
Presumption of Fact
The presumption is either of a fact or law. The court shall presume a fact whenever it is directed by this Act and shall regard such fact as proved unless and until it is disproved (Section 4). Rules of presumption are deduced from enlightened human knowledge and experience and are drawn from the connection, relation, and coincidence of facts and circumstances. A presumption is not in itself evidence but only makes a prima facie case for the party in whose favour it exists.
The general rule of estoppel is when one person has by his declaration, act, or omission, intentionally caused or permitted another person to believe a thing to be true and to act upon such belief, neither he nor his representative shall be allowed, in any suit or proceeding between himself and such person or his representative to deny the truth of that thing.
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