Evolution of the concept of best evidence rule
The rule of evidence does not fall under the purview of either substantive or procedural law but falls under adjective law. It is the mechanism by which the substantive laws are laid down and held in motion.
The general definition of the word “evidence” is “the available body of facts or knowledge indicating whether a belief or an argument is true or legitimate.”However, according to the reading of Section 3 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, evidence implies and includes:
All statements which the court permits or allows witnesses to make before it in relation to matters of fact under investigation; such statements shall be considered oral evidence; all documentation (including electronic records) developed for the inspection of the court.
Context of history
In order to trace the history of the rule of proof in our country, we must visit three separate periods:
• The ancient Hindu era;
• Ancient Muslim period;
• The British age.
Ancient Hindu Era
The law of evidence prevailing in the Hindu Indianemanate of the Hindu Dharma Shastras. According to the Hindu Dharma Shastras, the purpose of any trial is the desire to ascertain the truth. This points out that-The prosecutor, using his expertise, should extricate the lie as a surgeon, taking an iron dart out of the body with the aid of the surgical instruments.
Vasista has recognised three forms of evidence:
– Lekhya (documentary proof)
– Sakshi (the witnesses)
– Bukhti (possession)
– Divya (Orders)
Ancient Muslim period
The facts under the heads of an oral and documentary are dealt with by the rule of Mohammedan.
Oral testimony is further subclassified to
(a) simple and intermediate
(b) hearsay evidence, as at present
As Sarkar points out, There was no detailed or systemic legislation on the Indian Evidence Act when the Indian Evidence Act was implemented. The courts founded by the Royal Charter used to comply with the English Rules of Evidence during the Town Presidency. The interpretation of the Rule of Evidence was unclear beyond the Presidency. The Mofussil Court was also not bound by the English rule of evidence. In the administration of the law of proof, there was a certain degree of caprice and arbitrariness. This anarchy paved the way for the implementation of the Indian Evidence Act as stipulated in the English Evidence Act. Some attempts were made in 1835 and in 1853, but the same attempts were desultory. The curtain raiser was the Draft Bill of Evidence of 1868 adopted by the Indian Law Commissioner under the chairmanship of Henry Maine. According to Maine, the state of judicial disorder in the administration of evidence has been particularly unsatisfactory. Moreover, the wholesale importation into India of the English Evidence Law is not feasible as per the needs and status of the Indian Society. The draught bill did not go through the first stage of the reading and was criticised for the difficulty and lack of experience of the Indian Judges in the implementation of the said legislation. Sir James Fitzjames Stephen who became a member of the Indian Evidence Act in 1871. The bill was approved and became the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
Evidence means the facts which have been proven to exist by certain terms or items and which are considered to be the basis of inference as to other fittest which have not been formed. Again, it is often used as a term to say that a specific reality is important to the matter under review. However, in the Act, the term has been given a more specific definition and is used only in the first context.
According to Benthem, context Evidence is defined as any matter of fact, the consequence, propensity or design of which is to be generated in the mind, affirmative or non-positive persuasion, of the presence of some other matter of fact.
According to Taylor, the evidence implies and includes all the facts except the arguments which appear to prove or disprove any matter which is the subject of an investigation in a judicial proceeding.
Evidence is used to back up or contradict claims that will allow the court to analyse in detail and to make a decision accordingly. The proof is very important to justify your points in court. At each point of the court case, the certain proof is needed to be presented.
As in the case of Mr B’s murder, Mr A’s shot dead with a pistol. In this case of trial, there must be no question that B is murdered by A. The key fact to be identified in this case before the court is:
• A killed B.
• A intended to destroy B.
Evidence of this principal truth is sufficient to prove it. In this case, the evidence applicable to the court of law is as follows:
• Purchasing of a firearm.
• Concealment of the firearm.
• Witness who witnessed this incident happens.
• The individual A bought the gun a day before B died.
• Witness who saw A holding the gun after the assassination.
Concept of best evidence rule
Best evidence rule means that, for the purpose of proof, an original copy of a document or recording or image must be produced before a court in order to show its contents and not to produce a copy thereof, unless it is not available.
The doctrine of the profert in curia is closely linked to the law of the best proof. In the case of a prophet in the curia, if the party is unable to supply the original written documents, all privileges provided by the document will be lost. The best proof rule is often referred to as the ‘original document rule,’ which states that the party must provide the original document and, in the event that the party is unable to supply the document He has to account for the same original document. If the petitioner can not show the original document or account for the non-production, he was not permitted to provide proof by secondary sources, such as a handwritten copy.
Nowadays, the best evidence theory is used to determine the validity of the evidence in court. In civil litigation, it is very common to see that records have to be submitted before the court by the parties. Such documents must be identified by the courts as exhibits before the court can take those documents into account. In the first place, the court must ensure that certain records are authentic before taking them as evidence.
In the case of Bank of Baroda v. Shree Moti Industries Ltd., the High Court of Bombay, while talking about the nature of the facts, claimed that if a party is found to have the original document in its possession, the same must be brought before the court.
In India, the best evidence rule is not expressly stated anywhere but is based on sections 91 and 92 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872. The theory can also be seen in sections 60 and 64 of the Indian Act of Proof.
Section 91 of the Evidence Act states, in particular, that we should show the original document in order to prove the contents of the same document, although it does not preclude the parties from adducing any proof in the event that the document is capable of being interpreted differently in order to prove the way in which it was perceived in the case of Tulsi v. Chandrika Prasad. Oral proof can also be presented to demonstrate that the recitals in the act are nominal and are not necessarily meant to be acted upon or that it was not the intention of the parties to change the present state of affairs.
In the case of State Bank of India v. Mula Shakari Sakhar Karkhana Ltd., it was held that the court would determine the essence of the transaction by the terms and conditions of the contract, along with the circumstances surrounding it and the circumstances of the case, only in cases where there is any uncertainty in the document. If there is no such uncertainty with respect to the text, the court will not consider such a re-statement.
Section 92 of the Indian Evidence Act supplements the preceding portion. Section 92 provides that no oral proof or assertion of difference, inconsistency, addition or subtraction may be admissible in respect of any matter relating to the contract, grant or any other disposition of property that has been formed in court by the production of the original or by the production of secondary proof.
The reasons for the exclusion of extrinsic evidence were discussed in the case of Roop Kumar v. Mohan Thani. In the case, the Supreme Court of India claimed that “The reasons for the exclusion of extrinsic evidence are as follows. Admitting inferior proof where the law demands superior would be tantamount to nullifying the statute, where parties have explicitly written their agreement, it is clearly believed, between themselves and their private persons, that they wish to write down and make a final declaration of their intentions, one that should be put beyond the scope of potential dispute, trust and treacherousness.
The Court also held that Section 91 applies to all documents, whether or not any claim of particular rights. It refers to both bilateral and unilateral documents The rule in section 91 is general and is not restricted to the executor or executor of documents, but section 92 applies only to documents which can be defined as non-dispositive. And focuses exclusively on bilateral documents. Section 92 relies solely on the parties to the documents or their members of interest.
The best evidence rule provides for a very simple requirement, which prohibits a party from creating tampered or manipulated evidence which could have a major difference in the judgement of the case. But, on the other hand, it makes the law very rigid and makes it complicated for the party that produces the facts. Since ancient times it has been agreed that the rules of proof with regard to court cases are and should be based solely on discovering the facts regarding contentious topics by using the best available information at hand. Like we’ve seen before.
We have seen how different elements, such as admissions, division of land, etc., are regulated by sections 91 and 92 in the light of the facts. These two parts account for the evidentiary value of the relevant records as well as for the admissibility of oral testimony in various instances. These two parts would only apply if the documents contain all the words listed. The assumption of whether or not the written declaration was meant to contain the whole agreement can be understood by reading both the text itself and the extrinsic proof.
The Indian Evidence Act, divided into three parts, eleven chapters and one hundred and eighty-five sections, came into force in 1872 and was last revised in 2018. The lawmakers have been wise enough that this act has not lost its importance in the past year, and few changes have kept it intact.
AUTHOR: POOJA BISHT
(Student of BBA LLB. 3rd Sem, FIMT- School of Law, GGSIPU, New Delhi)