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Important Definitions Evidence Act

Updated: May 18


Important Definition Indian Evidecne Act

Content:-


Fact


The term "fact" encompasses various aspects:


  • External Facts: These are things, states of affairs, or relationships between things that can be perceived through the senses. For instance, the arrangement of certain items in a specific order in a particular location constitutes an external fact.


  • Internal Facts: These refer to any mental state of which an individual is aware. For example, if a person hears or sees something, it is considered an internal fact.


Illustrative Examples:


  • The arrangement of specific items in a particular order in a designated location constitutes a fact.


  • If a person hears or sees something, that is considered a fact.


  • The utterance of certain words by an individual is a fact.


  • An individual's held opinion, intention, act in good faith or fraudulent behaviour, use of a specific word in a particular context, or consciousness of a particular sensation at a specified time are all considered facts.


  • An individual's reputation is also regarded as a fact.


The scope of facts extends beyond physical objects to include aspects that are not readily observable, such as a person's mental state. Concepts like intention, fraud, good faith, negligence, etc., are treated as facts. It is often remarked that "the state of a person's mind is as factual as the state of their digestion.

 
 

" Additionally, a person's health status falls within the realm of facts, including psychological aspects that can be established through circumstantial evidence.


Facts can be categorised as positive or negative. The presence of a particular state of affairs constitutes a positive fact, while its absence represents a negative fact.


The "matter of fact" refers to anything that serves as the subject of testimony, while "matter of law" pertains to the general legal principles of the jurisdiction, which the courts recognize without the need for additional proof.


Denning LJ provided a clear distinction between "Law" and "Fact" in the following manner:


Primary facts are those observed directly by witnesses and established through oral testimony, or they may be proven by the presentation of physical evidence, such as original documents.


The determination of primary facts primarily falls within the realm of fact-finding by the tribunal, and the primary question of law concerning them is whether there exists sufficient evidence to support the findings.


However, the conclusions drawn from primary facts are deductions made through a process of reasoning. If these conclusions can be reasonably reached by a layperson (with proper legal instruction) as well as by a lawyer, they are deemed conclusions of fact within the purview of the tribunal.


The only legal questions that may arise regarding such conclusions are whether there was a correct legal instruction and whether the conclusion drawn from the primary facts was reasonable.



Fact in Issue


"Facts in issue" encompass the following:


1. Any action that, either by itself or when combined with other facts, directly determines the existence, absence, nature, or extent of any right, liability, or disability contested in a legal proceeding. 


2. Any fact contested or affirmed in response to a factual issue recorded under the Civil Procedure Code.


Facts in dispute are categorised as facts in issue. Evidence becomes essential only concerning disputed facts between the involved parties. Moreover, the fact should be pivotal in deciding the question of right or liability. The following illustration clarifies this concept:


Suppose A is accused of murdering B. During the trial, various facts may be in issue, such as whether A caused B's death, whether A intended to cause B's death, whether A acted under grave and sudden provocation from B, or whether A, due to unsoundness of mind, was incapable of comprehending the nature of the act leading to B's death.


Every fact essential for the plaintiff to prove for a favourable adjudication or for the defendant to prove to contest the suit becomes a fact in issue.


The determination of facts in issue relies on the substantive law applicable to the offence. For instance, in a negligence tort action, disputed ingredients of negligence liability become facts in issue.


If the plaintiff claims that the defendant owed a duty of care and the defendant disputes this claim, the existence of this duty becomes a fact in issue.


In criminal cases, the allegations in the charge sheet constitute the facts in issue, while in civil cases, the process of identifying facts in issue is termed as framing issues. The concept of an "issue of fact" under the Civil Procedure Code corresponds to the "fact in issue" defined in the Evidence Act.


Regardless of the nature of the facts in issue, their existence must be proven to the court's satisfaction before the court can render a judgement based on them.


For instance, let's consider a scenario where A is accused of the murder of B. Before A can be convicted, the prosecution must establish several key facts:


  1. That B indeed died.

  2. That B's death was a result of homicide, not suicide.

  3. That A caused B's death.

  4. That A had the intention to cause B's death.


Each of these facts falls within the definition of a "fact" and, when considered together, establishes A's liability for murder, which is asserted by the prosecution and contested by A in the criminal proceeding.


Additionally, if A presents evidence to demonstrate that he received grave and sudden provocation from B, this becomes another fact in issue. This fact, when considered alongside others, determines the extent of A's liability. In this scenario, A might be found guilty only of culpable homicide, which does not amount to murder.


Similarly, if A can prove that at the time of the act leading to B's death, he was incapable of understanding its nature due to unsoundness of mind, this becomes yet another fact in issue. Establishing this fact would negate A's liability for murder.

 
 

Relevant Facts


One fact is deemed relevant to another when the former is intertwined with the latter through any of the avenues outlined in this Act concerning the relevance of facts. These include:


- Facts logically intertwined with facts at hand (Sections 6-16),

- Admissions and confessions (Sections 17-31),

- Statements by non-witnesses (Sections 32-33),

- Statements under special circumstances (Sections 34-38),

- Judgments in other cases (Sections 40-44),

- Opinions of third persons (Sections 45-51),

- Evidence concerning character (Sections 52-55).


It's important to note that the section doesn't explicitly define "relevant." Instead, it simply delineates when one fact becomes pertinent to another.


Typically, facts relevant to an issue are those essential for proving or disproving a fact in question. Thus, relevant facts (or evidentiary facts), also known as factum probans, are capable of providing a reasonable presumption regarding either the facts in question or the principal matters in dispute.


The term "relevant" has been construed as "admissible" (Lakhmi v Haider, 3 CWN 268). Relevant facts are not the subject of the issue themselves but serve as the basis for inferences regarding them.


For instance, in a scenario where "A is accused of the murder of B," the "relevant facts" may include A having a motive and opportunity to kill B, A making preparations by purchasing a knife, or being witnessed post-murder running with a blood-stained knife in hand.


Relevance denotes a connection and such a connection with the facts at hand that convinces or tends to convince the judge about the existence or non-existence of the facts at issue.


The term "relevant" implies that any two facts it's applied to are so linked that, according to the usual course of events, one fact taken alone or in conjunction with others proves or makes probable the existence or non-existence of the other.


It's worth noting that circumstantial evidence pertains to facts other than those at issue, which, based on human experience, are found to be so associated with the fact at issue that the latter can be reasonably inferred from them.


Sections 6 to 55 of the Indian Evidence Act embody the principles by which Judges in England historically adjudicate facts into an inquiry as relevant. For instance, a Judge in England might determine a fact's relevance because it serves as a motive for the fact in question.


Sir James Stephen articulates in Section 8:


"Any fact is relevant which shows or constitutes a motive or preparation for any fact in issue or relevant fact."

Overlap inevitably occurs among these rules. A fact might be relevant under multiple sections because, concerning the same fact, one English Judge might deem it relevant as preparation, while another as conduct. In the Act, we find distinct rules corresponding to both preparation and conduct.


Facts constituting preparation for the occurrence of the fact in question or relevant fact are relevant. Similarly, facts constituting conduct are relevant.


However, it's crucial to note that if a fact is logically relevant and there's no reason for its exclusion, it must also be legally relevant. The fact that it's legally relevant under more than one section or rule is inconsequential.


The focus is on making it relevant under at least one section. Only when a fact cannot be brought under any section does it become irrelevant.


Logical and Legal Relevancy


Understanding the disparity between logical and legal relevancy is best achieved by examining the approach of Judges in England and India.


When a particular fact is presented as relevant evidence, the English Judge first asks: "Is it logically relevant? If I accept it, will it aid in deciding the matter in dispute?" If the answer is affirmative, the Judge then queries: "Is there any exclusionary rule preventing me from considering it?" If not, the fact, which was logically relevant, becomes legally relevant.


The next consideration is whether there's any rule affecting its admissibility in evidence. If not, the fact becomes admissible, and the Judge can evaluate it. In contrast, a Judge in India would inquire, when a fact is offered in evidence: "Under which section of the Evidence Act is this fact relevant?"


If it falls under one or more relevant sections, then it's legally relevant, and the sole concern is its admissibility.


Thus, the stages through which a fact progresses are:


  1. logical relevancy (exclusive to England),

  2. legal relevancy, and

  3. admissibility.


The court, through a process of argument connecting the various relevant facts it believes in, arrives at a conclusion regarding the proof of the facts in issue in the case.


Subsequently, the law is applied to the established facts, and the rights and liabilities of the parties are determined.

 
 

Evidence


"Evidence" encompasses all statements permitted or required to be made before the court by witnesses concerning matters of fact under inquiry (oral/ocular evidence). It also includes all documents presented for the court's inspection (documentary evidence).


(Note: A document is evidence only when produced for the court's inspection. A writing obtained by the court for the accused for comparison is not considered evidence as it's not produced for the court's inspection.)


While this isn't a strict definition of "evidence," it rather outlines what "evidence" includes. The term 'evidence' implies being evident, i.e., plain, apparent, or notorious, but it's applied to that which tends to provide evidence or generate proof of a fact.


'Evidence' refers to anything that establishes or disproves the alleged matter or fact. Anything (excluding mere argument) that elucidates the matter in question to the court constitutes evidence.

For instance, in a scenario where the question is whether an explosion occurred before a fire, the noise and flash of the explosion serve as evidence. Individuals who witnessed the flash or heard the noise can provide evidence of the explosion.


If a fact is recorded on anything other than human memory, that record also serves as evidence of the occurrence.


Although this definition includes only statements of witnesses and documents, it doesn't imply the exclusion of other types of evidence. For example, when a judge inspects the scene of an incident and creates a chart, it's also evidence, although not an oral statement or document produced by the parties.


The definition provided in Section 3 is incomplete and deficient as it excludes statements and admissions of the parties, their conduct, circumstances within the direct cognizance of the court, facts subject to judicial notice, and facts presumed by the court.


The confession of an accused person, while not considered evidence in the traditional sense, must be given due consideration in deciding the case. Similarly, the confession of a co-accused is considered evidence in a broader sense, as 'whatever is considered by the court is evidence.' Circumstances and probabilities also amount to evidence in this generic sense.


Difference between Evidence and Proof

The term 'evidence' encompasses all legal means, excluding mere argument, that tend to prove or disprove any matter or fact submitted to judicial investigation.


'Proof' is the establishment of a fact in issue by proper legal means to the satisfaction of the court. Evidence is the medium through which proof is achieved.


Appreciation of Evidence

Irrespective of the type of evidence, whether conveyed through witness testimony or documents, the court must assess the reliability of the evidence presented.


  • This process, termed "appreciation of evidence," involves discerning the true and correct state of affairs, separating the relevant from the irrelevant.


It is akin to separating the grain from the chaff. Evidence is scrutinised for inherent consistency and probability to ascertain its credibility.


Different Kinds of Evidence

There are two main types of evidence:


1. Direct Evidence:

This comprises witness testimony directly pertaining to the fact in issue or the production of an original document. It requires no intermediary fact to prove the existence of the fact in question. Direct evidence is highly cogent, with its main advantage being its singular source of potential error—the fallibility of testimony.


2. Circumstantial Evidence:

Circumstantial evidence entails witness testimony about relevant facts from which the fact in issue may be inferred. In cases relying on circumstantial evidence, the evidence must strongly indicate the guilt of the accused.

  • It encompasses all relevant facts and is not secondary evidence; rather, it is direct evidence applied indirectly.

  • To secure a conviction based on circumstantial evidence alone, certain conditions must be met, including the complete establishment of circumstances, their conclusiveness, consistency only with the guilt of the accused, and the exclusion of the possibility of guilt by any other person.

  • In assessing a circumstantial evidence case, each circumstance individually may not conclusively point to guilt, but collectively, they should leave no reasonable doubt as to the accused's guilt.


Document


The term "document" refers to any substance expressing or describing information through letters, figures, marks, or a combination thereof, intended or capable of being used for recording that information.


Illustrations such as writing, printed words, lithographed or photographed material, maps or plans, inscriptions on metal plates or stones, and even caricatures all fall under the category of documents.


This definition closely aligns with the one found in the Indian Penal Code. Sir James Stephen defines a 'document' as "any substance bearing matters expressed or described on it by marks capable of being read."


For example, letters imprinted on trees indicating passage by a Forest Ranger qualify as documents.


This definition mirrors the one in Section 29 of the Indian Penal Code.


The term "document" encompasses all material substances where human thoughts are represented by writing or any other form of conventional mark or symbol.


For instance, the wooden tally used by bakers or milkmen to record the quantity of bread or milk supplied to customers is considered a document, as much as the most formal deeds.


Furthermore, modern technological advancements have expanded the definition of documents.


For instance, a compact disc qualifies as a document. Additionally, items like memory cards, hard drives, CDs, pen drives, etc., containing relevant data in electronic form are also considered documents.

 
 

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