Understanding the Meaning of Evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872
Mr. Paramjeet Sangwan

Understanding the Meaning of Evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, 1872

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"Evidence" - "Evidence" means and includes - 


(1). All statements which the Court permits or requires to be made before it by witnesses, in relation to matters of fact under inquiry; such statements are called oral evidence. 


(2). All documents produced for the inspection of the Court; such documents are called documentary evidence. 


NOTES: It is not necessary that the person whose statement is to be recorded must be present in the court. The presence does not necessarily mean actual physical presence in the Court. 


Evidence includes video conferencing. Video conferencing is an advancement of science and technology which permits one to see, hear and talk with someone far away with the same facility and ease as if he is present herein. The only difference is that one cannot touch the person concerned. Even then, it will not disentitle a person to give evidence in such a way. There are various reasons for allowing such type of evidence. For example if any incident is seen by an eye-witness through binocular or telescope and if it is brought to the notice of the Court by such person can it be said that he is not an eye-witness? More so, if we watch something through the same can it be said that we have not watched it? The essential requirement of advancement of technology and its application is to make things easier and flexible. The Court is meant for the people. So it is required for the Court to give reasonable and appropriate facility to the people. Various types of courts and benches have come into existence based upon the development of science and technology. Video conferencing is one such facility. By inserting Sections 65A and 65B in the Evidence Act a special provision as to evidence relating to electronic record and admissibility of electronic records has been introduced with effect from 17th October, 2000. Consequential amendments are also made therein. Therefore there is no bar of examination of witness by way of Video Conferencing being essential part of electronic method. 


If it appears to the Court that electronic video conferencing is not only much cheaper but also facilitates the Court and avoids delay of justice, a practical outlook is to be taken by the Court. In such circumstances, Court may dispense with such attendance and issue a Commission for examination of the witness. However, in allowing such prayer Court will first of all consider whether linkage of such facility will be available between two places or not. 


Evidence can be divided into 


(1). Direct evidence 

(2). Circumstantial evidence 


The Maxim ‘falsus in uno falsus in omnibus’ i.e. false in one thing, false in every thing is neither a sound rule of law nor a rule of practice.  The maxim is not applicable in India and the witness cannot be branded as liar. 

The witnesses may be a rustic witness, interested witness, chance witness, injured witness etc. 


DIRECT EVIDENCE: Direct evidence is the testimony of a witness to the existence or non existence of a fact or facts in issue. In some circumstances the circumstantial evidence could also be treated as direct evidence because from the facts from which the existence of the fact in issue is to be inferred must be proved by direct evidence.     


CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE: For a crime to be proved, it is not necessary that the crime must be seen to have been committed and must in all circumstances be proved by direct ocular evidence by examining before the court those persons who had seen its commission. The offence can be proved from circumstantial evidence also. Circumstantial evidence is not direct to the point in issue but consists of evidence of various other facts which are so closely associated with the fact in issue that if taken together they form a chain of circumstances from which the existence of the principal fact can be legally inferred or presumed. For graver charges, greater standard of proof is required. 

Where the proof rests only upon circumstantial evidence, the several pieces of testimony which have to be regarded as links in the chain of this evidence have to be considered in their cumulative effect. The circumstantial evidence to prove a fact should be closely scrutinized and there should be no weak links, every weak link being a ground of reasonable suspicion, always calling for an acquittal. 

Circumstantial evidence is merely direct evidence indirectly applied. Where the direct evidence to prove a fact is found to be unreliable the circumstantial evidence bearing upon the fact may be looked into. 

The following ingredients are necessary for the purpose of proving circumstantial evidence: 

(1). the circumstances alleged must be established by satisfactory evidence, as in the case of other evidence. 

(2). the circumstances proved must be conclusive in character. 

(3). although there should be no missing links in the case, yet it is not essential that every one of the links must appear on the surface of the evidence adduced, some of these links may have to be inferred from the proved facts. 


(4). in drawing those inferences or presumptions, the court must have regard to the common course of natural events to human conduct and their relation to the facts of the particular case. 


The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case titled as Aftab Ahmad Anasari Vs.State of Uttaranchal decided on 12.1.2010 has held:                                     


“The law relating to circumstantial evidence is well settled. In dealing with circumstantial evidence, there is always a danger that conjecture or suspicion lingering on mind may take place of proof. Suspicion howsoever strong cannot be allowed to take place of proof and, therefore, the Court has to judge watchfully and ensure that the conjectures and suspicions do not take place of legal proof. 


Human agency may be faulty in expressing picturization of actual   incident   but  the circumstances cannot fail. Therefore, many a times, it is aptly said that "men may tell lies, but circumstances do not". In cases where evidence is of a circumstantial nature, the circumstances from which the conclusion of guilt is to be drawn should, in the first instance, be fully established.   Each fact must be proved individually and only thereafter the Court should consider the total cumulative effect of all the proved facts, each one of which reinforces the conclusion of the guilt. If the combined effect of all the facts taken together is conclusive in establishing the guilt of the accused, the conviction would be justified even though it may be that one or more of these facts, by itself/themselves, is/are not decisive.   The circumstances proved should be such as to exclude every hypothesis except the one sought to be proved.  But this does not mean that before the prosecution case succeeds in a case of circumstantial evidence alone, it must exclude each and every hypothesis suggested by the accused, howsoever extravagant and fanciful it might be. There must be a chain of evidence so far complete as not to leave any reasonable ground for conclusion consistent with the innocence of the accused and it must be such as to show that within all human probability, the act must have been done by the accused. Where the various links in a chain are in themselves complete, then a false plea or a false defence may be called into aid only to lend assurance to the Court. If the circumstances proved are consistent with the innocence of the accused, then the accused is entitled to the benefit of doubt. However, in applying this principle, distinction must be made between facts called primary or basic on the one hand and inference of facts to be drawn from them on the other. In regard to the proof of basic or primary facts, the Court has to judge the evidence and decide whether that evidence proves a particular fact or not and if that fact is proved, the question arises whether that fact leads to the inference of guilt of the accused person or not. In dealing with this aspect of the problem, the doctrine of benefit of doubt applies. Although there should be no missing links in the case, yet it is not essential that every one of the links must appear on the surface of the evidence adduced and some of these links may have to be inferred from the proved facts. In drawing these inferences or presumptions, the Court must have regard to the common course of natural events, and to human conduct and their relations to the facts of the particular case.” 


The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the case titled as Santosh Kumar Singh Vs. State thr. CBI (Criminal Appeal No. 87 OF 2007) decided on 6.10.2010 has held: 


It has been held time and  again that  a  false  plea  taken   by  an accused  in  a case  of   circumstantial   evidence is   another   link in the chain. In Trimukh Maroti Kirkan vs. State of Maharashtra 2006 (10) SCC 681 it has been held: 


"The normal principle in a case based on circumstantial   evidence is that the circumstances from which an inference of guilt is sought to be drawn must be cogently and firmly established; that those circumstances should be of a definite tendency unerringly pointing towards the guilt of the  accused; that the circumstances taken cumulatively should form a chain so complete that there is no escape from  the conclusion that within all human probability the crime was committed by the accused and they should be incapable of explanation  on any   hypothesis  other   than that of   the guilt of the accused and inconsistent with their innocence. 


"If an offence takes place inside the privacy of a house and   in such circumstances, where the assailants have all the  opportunity to plan and commit the offence at the time   and in circumstances of their choice, it will be extremely difficult for the prosecution to lead evidence to establish the guilt of the accused if the strict principle of circumstantial   evidence, as noticed above, is insisted upon by the courts.  A judge   does not preside over a   criminal trial merely to see that no innocent man is punished. A judge also presides to see   that  a   guilty   man  does   not   escape. Both   are   public duties. The law does not enjoin a duty on the prosecution to lead evidence of such character which is almost impossible to be led or at any rate extremely  difficult   to be led. The duty on the prosecution is to lead such evidence which it is capable of leading, having   regard   to  the   facts   and circumstances of   the  case. Here it is necessary to keep in mind Section 106 of the   Evidence Act which says that when any   fact  is   especially   within the knowledge of any person, the burden of proving that fact is upon him." 


The evidence may be hearsay evidence, real evidence. 


The witnesses may be interested witness, inimical witnesses etc. Where an offence of contempt is committed in the presence of a tribunal it has direct real evidence of the fact. 

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