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Reliability Of Evidence Under Evidence Act,1872: A Compendium

An Evidence under Evidence Act is the determining factor for reaching on a conclusive end in a case for either convicting or acquitting the accused in accordance with the law. It is a general rule that evidence is always presented for proving or dis-proving a fact-in-issue, however, every such fact is having a certain quantum of Evidentiary Value (see here) which proximately affects the relevancy, admissibility and reliability of that Evidence.

Like a FIR has it's evidentiary value only substantively for corroborating the statements and admissions of the Informant in the trial procedure, and is not conclusive until proven by circumstantial and other material evidences, whereas on the contrary, in case of Dying Declaration (see here), the weightage and significance the same is prima-facie conclusive and deciding in nature, unless the contrary is found or proved as the case may be. Therefore, it is must to note here that it is the Evidentiary Value that affects the credibility of Evidence, ultimately affecting it's reliability and admissibility in law.

Introduction:
The Reliability of the Evidence is a question of prudence and judicial analysis in law. If we analyze the purpose of evidence from legal point of view, then the objective of an evidence is to prove or disprove a fact-in-issue and ultimately assisting the Court for ascertaining the guilt of the accused. The fact is either proved or dis-proved, there is nothing partially proved or partially disproved in law, in which the evidence plays a pivotal role.

Now, an Evidence may be direct evidence or circumstantial evidence which affects the decision of the Judge regarding conviction or acquittal of the accused, however the basic difference between the two is that former has a direct proximate nexus with the guilt of the accused, whereas the later places a chain of incidents, from which the same has to been inferred for reaching on a conclusive end in the matter by applying the judicial mind.

So, the whole Evidence Act and procedure is more dependent on the judicial mind and wisdom of the Judge, rather than the findings of Police Report under Section 173 of Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (see here) or any Expert's Opinion under Section 45 of the Evidence Act, 1872 (see here). The grave problem which is faced in the present or modern times is with the electronic evidences, like any Document, File, Tape Recording, Audio File, etc.

As the E-evidences (see here) are always very prone to tampering which directly affects it's credibility in the Court regarding the case, therefore it is suggested to adopt a very meticulous precision and cautious approach while adjudging the admissibility, reliability and relevancy of any electronic evidence.

It is pertinent for us to understand here that in India, the best evidence cardinal rule is prevalent which says that, the Judgement must be based on best evidence, now the best evidence is not explicitly mentioned anywhere in the Act, but generally the Documentary Evidences, especially when it is a Public Document which holds a conclusive value and need not to be proved by the Officer executing the same, is regarded as the best evidence, for other cases like Oral Evidences, Indirect Evidences, Presumptive Evidences, etc.

The Judge need to critically examine it's credibility for bringing the same under the ambit of best evidence under law and giving the Judgement on the same, with not only providing relief to the aggrieved but also acting in furtherance of justice.

What is Evidence?

That According to Section 3 of the Act, (see here) an Evidence includes all statements, submissions which the Court allows to be presented before it by the witnesses in connection with the fact-in-issue for the case which is under inquiry, it is termed as Oral Evidences and all the other documents in support of the same like Arrest memo, Seizure memo, Ballistic Report, Charge-sheet, FIR Copy, Medical Report, etc. which assists the Court in corroborating the statements and testimony of the witnesses are known as Documentary Evidences, including the electronic evidences, which is even recognized under Information and Technology (IT) Act, 2000, (see here) It is pertinent for us to understand that an Evidence plays an extremely pivotal role in our Justice system, as it is the only tool which can ensure your victory in the Courtroom, as the Court is not concerned with your emotions, relations or public sentiments, rather it is only concerned with Evidences, and gives the Judgement on the same.

Now, here the Witnesses plays a main role as being an Evidence in the eyes of law, according to the Definition of Evidence, it is the witness that gives statements before Court, via Examination-in-chief in criminal matters and via Affidavit in Civil matters, ultimately guiding the justice system.

That as told by Sir Jeremy Bentham that:
Witnesses are the eyes and ears of Justice which is un-qualifiedly true in the present legal and practical context. Now, the value of Evidence and credibility of witness has to be dealt judicially according to the general principles of law and statutory provisions of Evidence Act. Like, a Witness may be a Chance Witness, Accomplice Witness, Eye Witness or a Hostile Witness, but even if a witness turns hostile in later stage of trial, his entire testimony cannot be discarded by the Court on the same ground and as a conservative approach it must be corroborated with his confession under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, (see here) so in simple sense Evidence must be examined with utmost caution and due diligence, in order to impart free and fair justice.

When an Evidence is Relevant?

The Relevancy of Evidence, purely depends upon relevancy of facts, as the evidence is given for proving the fact-in-issue as stated in Section 5 of the Act, (see here) therefore every such evidence which is given in reference and purpose of proving a fact-in-issue is a relevant evidence under law. Like, there is fact-in-issue about the Theft against A, and the defense lawyer raises a point of A's extra-marital affair in the courtroom, questioning the integrity of A, so here despite of the fact, that A might be involved in an Adultery, but this in no-way proves his guilt of theft as an accused which is the fact-in-issue in the matter, therefore such evidence is not relevant in the present case.

Apart from it, Section 6 of the Act, (see here) also provides about relevancy of facts, which are part of same transaction of offence, like proviso 1 states that in case of Murder of B by A via beating, the statements of the by-standers who are already present there at the time of the occurrence, or shortly before or after the event is part of the same transaction and hence relevant under the Act.

In the case of Sawaldas v. State of Bihar, AIR 1974 SC 778, (see here) the husband and his parents were accused of killing his wife, in the presence of their children who were playing in the verandah at the time of occurrence of the event. The wife cried for help as soon she was pushed in the room, the children exclaimed out of fear with clear apprehension that there mother was being killed.

The exclamations of the children were held relevant as they formed the part of same transaction. However, in the case of Vasa Chandra Sekhar v. Poona Satyanarayana, 2000 (see here) it was held that when the accused's father called the father of the wife of his son, to inform that his son (Husband) killed his daughter (wife), it was held not relevant under Section 6, as there was no concrete evidence to show or presume that the communication took place immediately after the committal of the crime.

Henceforth, the evidence, given for proving the fact-in-issue, and having proper proximity with the transaction of the offence or inference strongly indicating with the guilt of the accused is regarded the relevant evidence in the eyes of law and not otherwise.

When an Evidence is Admissible?

The Admissibility of Evidence is the decision of the Court and Judge to decide, and the parties can only plead that there evidence is relevant and admissible under the Act. However, the Judge must act with due diligence for deciding the admissibility of an evidence, and if he is having any dilemma regarding it's admissibility, than he should point it out on the same instance and not at the later stage of trial or before giving the Judgement, however, in such cases mostly the benefit of admissibility is given to the party so pleading.

It is also pertinent to note here that an illegal or irrelevant i.e in-admissible document doesn't turns into a relevant and admissible piece of evidence by the consent of the parties. That Section 136 of the Act, (see here) gives exemplary discretionary powers to the Judge for deciding the admissibility of the Evidence in the Court of law. The Court can either admit the first fact, proof of which depends upon the second fact, and later the party has to prove the such second fact, or even the Court may insist on proving the second fact first, for making the first fact admissible and relevant under law.

Therefore, the admissibility of evidence of either parties is subject to the discretionary powers of Court and relevancy of facts in each case, however there are several angles like way of procurement of evidence, means of production, motive behind evidence, etc. which needs to be considered by Hon'ble Judge before coming on any conclusion and meeting the ends of justice.

When an Evidence is Reliable?

The biggest question in front of the whole criminal justice system of India is about the Reliability of an Evidence. The evidence even if is admissible, relevant, credible and valid, but what is method of ascertaining it's reliability in law? It is probably the most interesting and ambiguous topic of the Evidence Law. So, there cannot be a straight-jacket formula for measuring the reliability of the evidence under any criminal law system of the world including India, and thus it is left to the wisdom and precision of the Judge, who is acting as the idol of justice in each case.

That as we all know, both the parties i.e. Plaintiff and Defendant will try at their best by all means to win the courtroom battle in their favor, for the same they both will present their own evidences and will question the credibility of other, there are all possible chances that both or either of the party produces false evidences or genuine evidences obtained by illegal means i.e criminal intimidation, bribery, tampering, etc. Hence, even if an Evidence seems to be reasonable at the first instance it's credibility has to adjudged by applying the Judicial mind at the latent stage by the Judge and not simply relying on the pleadings of the parties.

Conclusion: That the Evidence Act (see here) and Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (see here) has provided wide powers to the Judge for finding the reliability of the evidence been presented before him, under Section 136 the Judge can un-qualifiedly question the admissibility of the evidence, whereas under Section 165 (see here) he can question the witness, document or any evidence without any cross-examination, even under Section 311 of Crpc,1973 (see here) the Court can examine the witness or any person at any stage of inquiry or trial if his evidence deems just to the Court for deciding the case in the interest of justice.

Hence it can be concluded that, the Judge's Wisdom and sense of adjudication is the causative factor for determining the reliability of an Evidence under law, contrary to which will not only be detrimental in the interest of the accused but also will be wrongful in the light of public interest. That the Justice itself has word Just in it, hence a Judge is expected to adopt a just and fair approach for granting justice to the aggrieved in accordance with law.

References:
  1. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal The Law of Evidence (LexisNexis- 27th Edition)
  2. Evidence Act, 1872, Acts of Parliament, 1872 (India)
  3. Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Acts of Parliament, 1973 (India)
  4. Information and Technology (IT) Act, 2000, Acts of Parliament, 2000 (India)
  5. India Const. art. 14, 19 & 21
  6. Law Octopus, https://www.lawctopus.com/academike/distinction-between-relevancy-and-admissibility/, (last visited Sept. 15, 2021)
  7. Britannica, https://www.britannica.com/topic/evidence-law/Relevance-and-admissibility, (last visited Sept. 16, 2021)


    Award Winning Article Is Written By: Mr.Yashraj Bais
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