Ocular evidence, often simply referred to as eye witness evidence or oral
evidence, is based on observation and individual impressions or interpretations.
Ocular evidence implies to visual evidence which is seen with the eyes. Unless
other supporting evidence justifies its admissibility and it is not shown to be
possibly wrong, it is regarded as perhaps the best evidence in criminal trial
proceedings. This ocular evidence could range from eyewitness accounts, video
footage or all other visual observations.
Medical evidence is the opinion of a medical expert usually a doctor. This
involves details on injuries, diseases, medical cases, deaths or forensics. Such
evidence may include medical reports, post-mortem report, or testimony by an
expert witness, or simply the results of diagnostic tests.
The medical proof
comprises factual statements originating from the domain of a medical profession
and health that are factual in nature. This kind of evidence can help the court
to uncover a lot regarding one�s cause of death, current heath conditions
together with past illness, diagnosis and treatment.
Differences between Ocular and Medical evidence
Some of the differences between ocular evidence and medical evidence are noted
- Ocular evidence is generated through the personal observations and subjective experience of persons who witnessed an incident, while medical evidence involves laboratory results, X-ray findings, or medical professional's opinions about the illness.
- Medical or scientific training is not always necessary to interpret ocular evidence. However, expertise in medicine or forensics is often required to comprehend and interpret medical evidence.
- Ocular evidence refers mainly to a description of the particular event or scene, medical evidence has in-depth medical information about a patient's wellbeing, injuries or causes of death.
- Medical evidence is usually more easily admitted into legal trials because it has a scientific foundation and inherent reliability. However, ocular evidence could be subjected to more scrutiny as well as challenges on its accuracy and possible biases.
- Ocular Evidence can be a subjective matter depending on perception, recall, and interpretation. Medical evidence is considered objective as it comprises of standardised medical processes backed by scientific analysis.
- Ocular evidence stems from our direct sense of sight and hearing. Such can be eyewitness accounts, CCTV recordings or crime scene images. The issue is that documentation may prove difficult since it is often dependent on human senses and memory. Concerning medical evidence, it is mainly informed from detailed medical records, pictures, lab results etc.
- Ocular evidence suffers bias, omission, distortion, or even wrong analysis. Medical Evidence is usually stronger as it employs a number of controlled and standardised procedures such as scientific basis, objective method, tests and the professional expertise.
- Ocular evidence may not be as detailed and unbiased as medical evidence. Medical evidence is more precise, providing specific information about injuries along with supporting X-rays or CT scans and relevant medical records.
- Ocular evidence includes descriptions of incidents, observations of people, and personal testimonies. On the other hand, medical evidence encompasses information about diseases, injuries, imaging results, and proposed medical interventions for a patient.
- Ocular evidence does not require any particular expertise, for it is a testimony provided by an immediate eyewitness. Medical evidence usually involves a qualified health care professional such as a doctor, nurse, forensic analyst or specialist.
- In a legal setting, ocular evidence is usually presented by way of eyewitnesses.
- Medical evidences come in the form of hospital's records, witness testimonies
as well as doctors and nurses records.
- While it takes no special skill in medicine or science to interpret ocular evidence, it's hard to understand and tell the truth about the medical evidence without special training and skill over the subject.
- Cross-verifying or confirming ocular evidence may pose challenges. To validate it, one can compare it with other sources like medical records, expert opinions, or scientific research.
- The nature of ocular evidence makes it vulnerable towards biasness which can be affected by personal feelings, relationships and presumptions. Medical evidence seeks to mitigate prejudice by using standard practices and employing scientific principles.
- Cross-examination of ocular evidence is paramount in most criminal cases where there are eyewitness statements. Medical evidence is usually powerful in courts if it is objective and doctors are experts.
- Ocular evidence is preferred if it is reliable and trustworthy. Medical evidence to be reliable should be supported by data and analysis report to convince the court.
- Just as the reliability of a person giving ocular evidence can be challenged, the trustworthiness of an expert furnishing medical evidence can also be challenged by questioning the credibility of the medical expert and also the medical evidence adduced by him.
- On September 20th, 2023, Justices Bela M Trivedi and Aniruddha Bose ruled emphasizing the decision of the apex court to prioritize ocular evidence over medical expert opinion. In cases where medical evidence and eyewitness testimony conflict, the former should take precedence. The justices went on to emphasize the reliability of eyewitness accounts, acknowledging minor inconsistencies as understandable given the nature of recalling events, therefore carrying more weight than medical evidence. They further emphasized that it was unreasonable to expect a flawless, meticulously-detailed account of a crime from an eyewitness.
- On 26, July, 2021, the Supreme Court's division bench comprising Navin Sinha and R. Subhash Reddy, JJ. stressed the importance of ocular evidence and upheld the conviction, overturning the acquittal of an accused saying ocular evidence should be disbelieved only when medical evidence rules out all possibilities of ocular evidence being true. It regarded ocular evidence as the most acceptable form of evidence in court if it has been supported by other evidences without any basis for doubt. This refers to the case of Pruthviraj Jayantibhai Vanol v. Dinesh Dayabhai Vala (Criminal Appeal No. July 2014, page 177), 26th July 2021.
- On 18.06.2020, the case of Ram Sahai v. State of U.P. was decided by the Allahabad High Court, presenting a legal position for conflicting medical and ocular evidence. When these types of evidence contradict each other, the law takes a definitive stance. Although witness testimony based on what they saw is given more weight than medical evidence, the medical evidence can't be ignored if it makes the testimony seem improbable. If the medical evidence directly denies the ocular evidence, then the ocular evidence can be totally dismissed. This legal position was affirmed by the court.
- In case of inconsistency between ocular and medical evidence, ocular evidence must prevail unless medical or scientific evidence completely renders it unreliable, as held by Supreme Court in the case of Darshan Singh v. State of Uttarakhand on 7 November, 2019.
- If the medical evidence is totally inconsistent with the ocular evidence it would be permissible for the court to reject the oral evidence though medical evidence is opinion evidence, as decided in the case of Anwar v. State of Haryana, (1997) 9 SCC 766.
- Direct reliable evidence is not supposed to be dismissed as a result of speculative medical evidence. When there is medical evidence for two possibilities then the choice should be made as per the direct evidence. This was concluded in the ruling of Anil Roy v. State of Bihar (2001).
- Merely because there is some variance between the medical evidence and the eyewitness evidence, the court should not take the easy way out of giving the benefit of doubt to the accused, as held in the case of Mohan Singh v. State of M.P., (19999) 2 SCC 428.
- https://www.scconline.com/blog/post/2021/07/28/ocular-evidence/, published on 28 July 2021.
- https://www.jainodin.com/2020/06/ocular-evidence-vs-medical-evidence.html, Ram Sahai v. State of U.P., Allahabad High Court decided on 18.06.2020.
- Law of Evidence, Vepa P. Sarathi, Eastern Book Company