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Concept of public documents

Meaning:
Public Documents are documents or records that are authenticated by the public officer. Public documents also contain statements made by the public officer in his official capacity that are admissible as evidence of the fact in civil matters .They are made available to the public for reference and use.

Characteristics of public document:
Rangaraju vs. kannayal and ors.
  1. Public documents must be prepared by public servant in his official capacity.
  2. Should be made available for the purpose of public reference and use.
  3. Test of publicity is that the Public should be interested in such documents and should be entitled to check the mistakes or errors in such documents and if there are any errors or wrongs in it they are entitle to protest.
  4. It becomes a public document when the public has right to inspect such official documents and those who are willing can obtain certified copy of the same by paying prescribed fee.

Nature of public documents (sec 74 of Indian evidence act)
74. Public documents.—the following documents are public documents:
  1. Documents forming the acts, or records of the acts:
     
    1. of the sovereign authority,
    2. of official bodies and tribunals, and
    3. of public officers, legislative, judicial and executive, 1[of any part of India or of the Commonwealth], or of a foreign country; 1[of any part of India or of the Commonwealth], or of a foreign country;
  2. Public records kept 2[in any State] of private documents.

Kinds of public documents and how they are proved: sec 78:
  1. Acts, notifications or orders and they are proved by certified records certified by head of department.
  2. The Proceedings of the legislatures proved by proceeding published by government.
  3. Proclamation, orders or regulations proved by gazette notification.
  4. This Acts of the executive or the proceedings of the legislature of foreign legislatures proved by official journals published by their authority and by certified copy of legal keeper.
  5. Proceedings of municipal bodies in a state proved by printed published books of authority.
  6. Public documents of any other class in a foreign country proved by duly or of an diplomatic agent or by Indian consul, certified by notary public that the copy is duly certified by legal keeper

Examples of public documents:
  1. School register
    Case law:
    Prem Chand Sao v State of Jharkhand,
    The age of the accused had to be determined for the purposes of the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986. There was a concurrent finding of courts below that he was of the age between 19 and 20 years and, therefore, not a juvenile. This finding was based upon the report of the Medical Board. The doctor who examined the accused was not produced as a witness. The school leaving certificate showed the age to be 15 years. No evidence was produced to show that the certificate was wrong. The school records could not be doubted for the fact that the admission register was not signed by the father of the accused. A school leaving certificate is a document which falls within the ambit of section 74. It is admissible in evidence perse without the need for any formal proof
     
  2. Census Report of India
     
  3. Birth and death registers of municipalities.
    Case law:
    Narattam Das V. Md. Masadharali
     
  4. Records of National Bank
    Case laws:
    Gorantla Venkateshwarlu vs. B. Demudu.
    Records of nationalized banks have been taken to be in the category of public Documents. They are, therefore, admissible without further proof. The examination of the person who prepared the document which is being offered in evidence is not necessary.
    Sri Keshava gupta vs. Coal India ltd.
    Kitab Singh v Deputy Commissioner
     
  5. Charge sheet Orders of civil court, FIR:
    Case laws:
    Royal sundaram alliances vs. D. gunasekharan
    Md Akbar v State of AP
    Certified copies of the orders of the civil court and FIR were allowed to be submitted because they are all public documents. They were admissible in evidence
     
  6. Confessions recorded by magistrate u/s. 164 of Cr.P.C.
  7. Deposition of witnesses recorded by an officer of the Court.
  8. Entry in the register of power of attorney kept in the registration office.
  9. Village Records of the villages
  10. Sanction to prosecute.
  11. Notice u/s 106 of Cr.P.C.
  12. Record of information u/s.145 Cr.P.C
  13. Electoral Roll of all the districts
  14. Town Planning Reports by the Department of State Development
    Case law:
    Sl Sharma vs. Delhi development authority
     
  15. Medico-legal report
    Case law:
    Dalip Kumar alias pinkie vs. state
    In a medico-legal case, the medical officer prepares the (MLC) report as a public Servant in discharge of his duties and the (MLC) report is a public document, the Contents of which are admissible in evidence.
    The document furnished to the Press Council of India by organizations in order to substantiate their claims to be recognized by the Press Council, are public documents and are open to inspection.
     
  16. Marriage register
    Hindu Marriage Register has been held to be a public document. Its contents were, therefore, provable by producing certified copies. Where the documentary evidence based in the official registration of marriage was produced, it was accepted as a proof of marriage for award of interim maintenance. The contrary evidence produced by the husband in the shape of Ration Card and the Voters' List did not show any date of marriage of the accused with any other person.
    Case law: Seema vs. aswin Kumar
     
  17. Sale/Lease deed
    A sale deed or a lease deed is once it is registered and entered in the Book-I of the Registering Officer, the records maintained by such Registering Officer become a public document.
    Case law:
    Gopinath Educational and Welfare Society v Rejendra Singh Shekhawat
     
  18. Pahanies" and "faisal patties
    Case law:
    K Pedda Jangaiah v Mandal Revenue Officer, Moinabad
 
Documents that are not public documents:
  1. Income tax return
    Case law:
    Anwar Ali v Tafozal Ahmed
     
  2. A plaint or a written statement filed in a case.
    Case law:
    Gulab Chand v Sheo Karan Lal.
     
  3. Panchanama prepared by police officer.
    Case law:
    Hardayal haram Singh case
     
  4. A document which purports to be a letter or report of an executive official
    Case law:
    Fazl Ahmad v Crown
  5. Certificate issued by the doctor regarding the date of death

    Case law:
    State v Bhola Pal
    Neither the post-mortem report nor any certificate issued by the doctor regarding the date of death, is a public document and they must be proved by the doctor concerned.
  6. Registered power of attorney.
     
  7. The report of an officer who effected delivery of possession in the Land Restoration Register

Proof of contents of public documents:
Contents of the public documents are verified in court of law. For that purpose original copy of the public document need not be presented before the court, instead the certified copy of the public document can be presented before the court.

So what are certified copies of public documents? How they can be obtained? Acc to sec 76, certified copies are those copies of public documents that are certified by public officer that are in his official custody. Every person has the right to inspect those documents and on demand can obtain a copy by paying prescribed fee. the certified copies should contain the writings at the foot of the copy that it is a true copy of such document or part and should be dated and subscribed by such officer with his name and his official title and shall be sealed .

Reference:
Ratanlal & Dhirajlal: Law of Evidence (PB), 27th ed / the law of evidence

Footnotes:
  • 1995 Cr LJ 1742 (Del).
  • AIR 2003 AP 251: 2003 (2) Andh LD 648.
  • 2003 Cr LJ NOC 66 (Jhar).
  • Cr LJ 3167 (AP).

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