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Overview of Indian Evidence Act, 1872

Introduction:

      The “Law of Evidence” may be defined as a system of rules for ascertaining controverted questions of fact in judicial inquiries. This system of ascertaining the facts, which are the essential elements of a right or liability and is the primary and perhaps the most difficult function of the Court, is regulated by a set of rules and principles known as “Law of Evidence”

The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is an Act to consolidate, define and amend the Law of Evidence.

The Act extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir and applies to all judicial proceedings in or before any Court, including Court-martial (other than the Court-martial convened under the Army Act, the Naval Discipline Act or the Indian Navy Discipline Act, 1934 or the Air Force Act) but not to affidavits presented to any Court or officer, or to proceedings before an arbitrator.

The element of evidence:

      In general, the rules of evidence are same in civil and criminal proceedings but there is a strong and marked difference as to the effect of evidence in civil and criminal proceedings. In the former a mere preponderance of probability sufficient basis of a decision, but in the latter, especially when the offence charged amounts to felony or treason, a much higher degree of assurance is required. Certainty such as to be beyond all reasonable doubt.

  • Oral Evidence: Oral evidence means statements which the Court permits or requires to be made be- fore it by witnesses in relation to matters of fact under inquiry.
  • Documentary evidence: Documents produced for the inspection of the Court is called Documentary Evidence. Section 60 provides that the contents of a document must be proved either by primary or by secondary evidence.
  • Circumstantial evidence: “Circumstantial proof” is included under the term “relevant facts,” and all “relevant facts” must be proven by some oral or documentary evidence, i.e., by direct evidence.

Structure of the act:

      The Indian Evidence Act, 1872 is divided into three parts, namely:

  1. Relevancy of Facts
  2. On Proof
  3. Production

It is further divided into 11 chapters with 167 sections.

The element of Fact:

      According to section 3, “fact” means and includes:

  1. Anything, state of things, or relation of things capable of being perceived by the senses;
  2. Any mental condition of which any person is conscious.

Facts in issue: According to Section 3, whenever, under the provisions ofthe law for the time being in force relating to CivilProcedure, any Court records an issue of fact, the fact tobe asserted or denied in the answer to such issue is a factin issue.

Relevant facts may be classified in the following form: (a) Facts connected with the facts to be proved,(b) Statement about the facts to be proved e.g., Admission,confession, (c)Statements by persons who cannot be called as witnesses, (d) statements made under special circumstances, (e) opinions of third persons, when relevant.

Admission and Confession:

  • Admissions: An admission is defined in Section 17 as a statement, oral or documentary or contained in electronic form which suggests any inference as to any fact in issue or relevant fact, and which is made by any of the persons, and under the circumstances mentioned under Sections 18 to 20. An admission may be made by a party, by the agent. An admission must be clear, precise, not vague or ambiguous. Admission means conceding something against the person making the admission. That is why it is stated as a general rule (the exceptions are in Section 21), that admissions must be self-harming.
  • Confession: A confession is relevant as an admission unless it is made: – (i) to a person in authority in consequence of some inducement or threat; (ii) to a Police Officer; or (iii)to any one at a time when the accused is in the custody of a Police Officer and no Magistrate is present.

Principle of Estoppel:

      The doctrine of estoppel is based on the principle that it would be most inequitable and unjust that if one person, by a representation made, or by conduct amounting to a representation, has induced another to act as he would not otherwise have done, the person who made the representation should not be allowed to deny or repudiate the effect of his former statement to the loss and injury of the person who acted on it.

Related Case Laws:

  • Sorat Chunder v. Gopal Chunder
  • Mohori Bibee v. Dharmodar Ghost (1930) 30 cal [laid down by privy council]
  • State Bank of India v. Om Narain Agarwal, AIR 2011: In the above case, the Court highlighted that the main feature of the rule of evidence is to limit the scope of the dispute before the Court to those facts that have logical evidentiary value in determining a fact and to prevent giving judgments based on illogical conclusions or prejudices, as well as to aid in the administration of justice.

Different kinds of Estoppel:

Estoppel by attestation, Estoppel by contract, Constructive estoppel, Estoppel by election, Equitable estoppel, Estoppel by negligence, Estoppel by silence.

Conclusion:

      The term ‘evidence’ refers to the state of being evident, i.e., plain, evident, or notorious. However, it is used to describe something that tends to produce evidence or proof. We can define evidence as a process that deals with both the right and the procedures.

The Indian Evidence Act contains a number of provisions governing, examination, relevancy, admissibility, and evidence of facts. Confessions, character relevance, the burden of proof in criminal trials, dying declarations, expert opinions and various stages in the witness examination.

This article is written by Saniya Dinesh Lanjekar.

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